Friday, January 4, 2013

St Elizabeth Ann Seton

St Elizabeth Ann Seton (1774-1821)
Elizabeth Bayley Seton was the first native born American to be canonized. Born two years before the American Revolution, on August 28, 1774, Elizabeth grew up in the "cream" of New York society. She was a prolific reader, and read everything from the Bible to contemporary novels. In spite of her high society background, Elizabeth's early life was quiet, simple, and often lonely. As she grew a little older, the Bible was to become her continual instruction, support and comfort.
In 1794, Elizabeth married the wealthy young William Seton, with whom she was deeply in love. The first years of their marriage were happy and prosperous. This time of Elizabeth's life was to be a brief moment of earthly happiness before the many deaths and partings she was to suffer. Within four years, Will's father died, leaving the young couple in charge of Will's seven half brothers and sisters, besides their own 5 children, as well as the family's importing business. Now events began to move fast - and with devastating effect. Both Will's business and his health failed. He was finally forced to file a petition of bankruptcy. In a final attempt to save Will's health, the Setons sailed for Italy, but he died of tuberculosis soon after they arrived.
Elizabeth's deep concern for the spiritual welfare of her family and friends eventually led her into the Catholic Church, thanks also to the influence of the Fellicchi family with whom they stayed while in Italy. Elizabeth was baptized in St Peter’s church, New York City in 1805. 

Seton starting the Catholic School system
At the suggestion of the president of St. Mary's College in Baltimore, Maryland, Elizabeth started a school in that city. She and two other young women, who helped her in her work, began plans for a new order, which was to be named Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph. They established the first free Catholic school in America. When the young community adopted their rule, they made provisions for Elizabeth to continue raising her children. On March 25, 1809, the new Mother Seton pronounced her vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
Although Mother Seton was now afflicted with tuberculosis, she continued to guide her children. By 1818, in addition to their first school, the sisters had established two orphanages and another school. Today six groups of sisters trace their origins to Mother Seton's initial foundation. Mother Seton died in January 4, 1821 at the age of 46, only sixteen years after becoming a Catholic. She was canonized on September 14, 1975. On that day both Episcopalians and Catholics rejoiced. She is the patron of the Catholic schools in the USA.

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