Born: Aug. 28th, 1774
Died: Jan. 4th. 1821
FEast: Jan. 4th
teachers, schools, in-laws, widows, loss of parents, loss of children
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
Elizabeth grew up in New York City, born right at the beginning of the American Revolution. Her family was from some of the earliest American settlers, and her father was a well-known surgeon who was part of the upper class social life. Her mother was the daughter of a minister, but she passed away when Elizabeth was still very young. Her father re-married, and Elizabeth's step-mother cared for her and her sister, taking them around the city to distribute food to the poorer population. Her father also worked with the less-fortunate, as it was his job to examine the health of all immigrants that disembarked from boats in the harbor. Sadly, this second marriage for him ended in a divorce, which was so nasty that Elizabeth's step-mom rejected Elizabeth and her sister. Their father decided his next best move was to study in London, so the siblings lived with an uncle during this time. Elizabeth expressed in journals how much her step-mom had hurt her, but we also see her developing a love for writing poetry, playing music, and spending time in nature.
When Elizabeth was 19, she married William Magee Seton. They had five children, and it is said that their marriage was an extremely happy and loving one. They lived on Wall Street, and Elizabeth continued doing what she had been taught and loved - traversing the city to care for the hungry, sick, and dying.
When her husband's father passed away, however, they lost much money and also became in charge of taking care of William's 7 half brothers and sisters aside from their own five children. They had to move to accommodate, and they also had to take charge of the family import business.
Unfortunately, with all this chaos, William became overworked and stressed, especially when the business failed and he fell ill. They lost their home, had to declare bankruptcy, and were forced to move in with Elizabeth's father - and then they found out that William's illness was tuberculosis.
Doctors prescribed that he go to a warmer climate, so despite all of the issues the family was still involved in dealing with, Elizabeth and their oldest daughter sailed to Italy. They dealt with even more stress there as they were quarantined for months, and then William passed away.
Elizabeth was heartbroken, but she and her daughter were taken in for a short time by William's Italian business partners. It was through them that Elizabeth was exposed to the Catholic faith, and when she returned to New York, she found comfort in converting to Catholicism (in what was then the only Catholic church in the city).
To support the family, Elizabeth had begun a school in which she was the teacher, but, with laws against Catholicism having been lifted only a few years before, many parents withdrew their children from her school when they learned about her conversion.
She was about to move to Canada to escape the judgment and try again somewhere more accepting when she met a French priest who was establishing a seminary in Maryland for immigrants who had escaped the French Reign of Terror.
She moved there and began another free school for girls. She also established a religious community there to care for the school and community. The school was the first free Catholic one in the country and was also the beginning of Catholic schools in general in America.
For the rest of her life, Elizabeth spent her time establishing and growing the community and order, tragically dealing with even more losses in the deaths of a few of her children and friends. She also still dealt with pressures from the type of social society she had grown up in, and the way they viewed her negatively then for her faith.
She accomplished much in her lifetime, however, with her organization model used as far West as Cincinnati and New Orleans. These congregations still work throughout the United States and Canada to help those whose needs have been unmet.
She was only 46 when she passed away, and was canonized in 1975 as the first American saint. She was known to have been kind, witty, and friendly despite all her tragedies and struggles.
There is so much unfairness in our lives sometimes. It seems that when even the few things we take consolation in are taken from us, there is nothing to give our lives meaning or joy. Somehow, you were able to find that peace and motivation in God despite all your loss. Help us to do the same. Amen.
i IMAGINE eLIZABETH AS A BIT OF A QUIET SOUL, MAYBE A LITTLE SHY, ESPECIALLY AFTER ALL SHE HAD TO DEAL WITH. hER GLASSES ARE A SYMBOL OF HER VALUE OF EDUCATION, AND HER SWEATER A PROTECTION FROM HER LOSSES. hER EYES LOOK BRAVELY TOWARDS THE GOOD THAT SHE WAS ABLE TO DO, THOUGH.