Elizabeth Ann Seton

+John 1:35-42

As John stood with two of his disciples, Jesus passed, and John stared hard at him and said, ‘Look, there is the lamb of God.’ Hearing this, the two disciples followed Jesus. Jesus turned round, saw them following and said, ‘What do you want?’ They answered, ‘Rabbi,’ – which means Teacher – ‘where do you live?’ ‘Come and see’ he replied; so they went and saw where he lived, and stayed with him the rest of that day. It was about the tenth hour.

One of these two who became followers of Jesus after hearing what John had said was Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter. Early next morning, Andrew met his brother and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ – which means the Christ – and he took Simon to Jesus. Jesus looked hard at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John; you are to be called Cephas’ – meaning Rock.

Source: Jerusalem Bible

Catechism of the Catholic Church

THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST IN THE FULLNESS OF TIME

John, precursor, prophet, and baptist

717 “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.”89 John was “filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb” by Christ himself, whom the Virgin Mary had just conceived by the Holy Spirit. Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth thus became a visit from God to his people.

718 John is “Elijah [who] must come.” The fire of the Spirit dwells in him and makes him the forerunner of the coming Lord. In John, the precursor, the Holy Spirit completes the work of “[making] ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

719 John the Baptist is “more than a prophet.” In him, the Holy Spirit concludes his speaking through the prophets. John completes the cycle of prophets begun by Elijah. He proclaims the imminence of the consolation of Israel; he is the “voice” of the Consoler who is coming. As the Spirit of truth will also do, John “came to bear witness to the light.” In John’s sight, the Spirit thus brings to completion the careful search of the prophets and fulfills the longing of the angels. “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God. . . . Behold, the Lamb of God.”

720 Finally, with John the Baptist, the Holy Spirit begins the restoration to man of “the divine likeness,” prefiguring what he would achieve with and in Christ. John’s baptism was for repentance; baptism in water and the Spirit will be a new birth.


Psalm 97

The LORD is king; let the earth rejoice; let the many islands be glad.

Cloud and darkness surround the Lord; justice and right are the foundation of his throne.

Fire goes before him; everywhere it consumes the foes.

Lightning illumines the world; the earth sees and trembles.

The mountains melt like wax before the LORD, before the Lord of all the earth.

The heavens proclaim God’s justice; all peoples see his glory.

All who serve idols are put to shame, who glory in worthless things; all gods bow down before you.

Zion hears and is glad, and the cities of Judah rejoice because of your judgments, O LORD.

You, LORD, are the Most High over all the earth, exalted far above all gods.

The LORD loves those who hate evil, protects the lives of the faithful, rescues them from the hand of the wicked.

Light dawns for the just; gladness, for the honest of heart.

Rejoice in the LORD, you just, and praise his holy name.

Source: The New American Bible


 

Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton, S.C., (August 28, 1774 – January 4, 1821) was the first native-born citizen of the United States to be canonized by the Roman Catholic Church (September 14, 1975). She established the first Catholic girls’ school in the nation in Emmitsburg, Maryland, where she also founded the first American congregation of religious sisters, the Sisters of Charity.

Early life

Elizabeth Ann Bayley was born on August 28, 1774, the second child of a socially prominent couple, a surgeon, Dr. Richard Bayley and Catherine Charlton of New York City. The Bayley and Charlton families were among the earliest European settlers in the New York area. Her father’s parents were French Huguenots and lived in New Rochelle, New York. As Chief Health Officer for the Port of New York, Dr. Bayley attended to immigrants disembarking from ships onto Staten Island, as well as cared for New Yorkers when yellow fever swept through the city (for example, killing 700 in four months). Dr. Bayley later served as the first professor of anatomy at Columbia College. Her mother was the daughter of a Church of England priest who served as rector of St. Andrew’s Church on Staten Island for 30 years, and Elizabeth was raised in what would eventually become (in the years after the American Revolution) the Episcopal Church.

Her mother, Catherine, died in 1777 when Elizabeth was three years old. This may have resulted from complications after the birth of the couple’s final child, also Catherine, who died early the following year. Elizabeth’s father then married Charlotte Amelia Barclay, a member of the Jacobus James Roosevelt family, to provide a mother for his two surviving daughters. The new Mrs. Bayley participated in her church’s social ministry, and often took young Elizabeth with on her charitable rounds, as she visited the poor in their homes to distribute food and needed items.

The couple had five children, but the marriage ended in separation. During the breakup, their stepmother rejected Elizabeth and her older sister. Their father then traveled to London for further medical studies, so the sisters lived temporarily in New Rochelle with their paternal uncle, William Bayley, and his wife, Sarah Pell Bayley. Elizabeth experienced a period of darkness during this time, feeling the separation as loss of a second mother, as she later reflected in her journals. In these journals, Elizabeth also showed her love for nature, poetry, and music, especially the piano. Entries frequently expressed her religious aspirations, as well as favorite passages from her reading, showing her introspection and natural bent toward contemplation. Seton was also fluent in French, a fine musician, and an accomplished horsewoman.

Marriage and motherhood

On January 25, 1794, at age 19, Elizabeth married William Magee Seton, aged 25, a wealthy businessman in the import trade. Samuel Provoost, the first Episcopal bishop of New York, presided at their wedding. Her husband’s father, William Seton (1746–1798), belonged to an impoverished noble Scottish family, and had emigrated to New York in 1758, and became superintendent and part owner of the iron-works of Ringwood, New Jersey. A loyalist, the senior William Seton was the last royal public notary for the city and province of New York. He brought his sons William (Elizabeth’s husband) and James into the import-export mercantile firm, the William Seton Company, which became Seton, Maitland and Company in 1793. The younger William had visited important counting houses in Europe in 1788, was a friend of Filippo Filicchi (a renowned merchant in Leghorn, Italy, with whom his firm traded), and brought the first Stradivarius violin to America.

Shortly after they married, Elizabeth and William moved into a fashionable residence on Wall Street. Socially prominent in New York society, the Setons belonged to Trinity Episcopal Church, near Broadway and Wall Streets. A devout communicant, Elizabeth took the Rev. John Henry Hobart (later bishop) as her spiritual director. Along with her sister-in-law Rebecca Mary Seton (1780–1804) (her soul-friend and dearest confidante), Elizabeth continued her former stepmother’s social ministry—nursing the sick and dying among family, friends, and needy neighbors. Influenced by her father she became a charter member of The Society for the Relief of Poor Widows with Small Children (1797) and also served as the organization’s treasurer.

When the elder William Seton died, the Seton family fortunes began to decline in the volatile economic climate preceding the War of 1812. The couple took in William’s six younger siblings, ages seven to seventeen. Plus, they had five children of their own: Anna Maria (Annina) (1795–1812), William II (1796-1868), Richard (1798–1823), Catherine (1800–1891) (who was to become the first American to join the Sisters of Mercy) and Rebecca Mary (1802–1816).[6] This necessitated her moving to the larger Seton family residence.

Widowhood and conversion to Catholicism

The Seton home in New York City was located at the site on which a church now stands in her honor, with the (7 State Street) serving as the rectory.

A dispute between the United States of America and the French Republic from 1798 to 1800 led to a series of attacks on American shipping. The United Kingdom’s blockade of France and the loss of several of his ships at sea led William Seton into bankruptcy, and the Setons lost their home at 61 Stone Street in lower Manhattan. The following summer she and the children stayed with her father, who was still health officer for the Port of New York on Staten Island. From 1801 to 1803 they lived in a house at 8 State Street, on the site of the present Church of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary (built in 1964). Through most of their married life, William Seton suffered from tuberculosis. The stress worsened his illness; his doctors sent him to Italy for the warmer climate, with Elizabeth and their eldest daughter as his companions. Upon landing at the port of Leghorn, they were held in quarantine for a month, for authorities feared they might have brought yellow fever from New York. William died on 27 December 1803 and was buried in the Old English Cemetery. Elizabeth and Anna Maria were received by the families of her late husband’s Italian business partners, who introduced her to Roman Catholicism.

Returning to New York, the widow Seton was received into the Catholic Church, on March 14, 1805 by the Rev. Matthew O’Brien, pastor of St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church, New York, then the city’s only Catholic church. (Anti-Catholic laws had been lifted just a few years before.) A year later, she received the sacrament of Confirmation from the Bishop of Baltimore, the Right Reverend John Carroll, the only Catholic bishop in the nation.

In order to support herself and her children, Seton had started an academy for young ladies, as was common for widows of social standing in that period. After news of her conversion to Catholicism spread, however, most parents withdrew their daughters from her tutelage. In 1807 students attending a local Protestant Academy were boarded at her house on Stuyvesant Lane in the Bowery, near St. Mark’s Church.

Seton was about to move to Canada when she met a visiting priest, the Abbé Louis William Valentine Dubourg, S.S., who was a member of the French émigré community of Sulpician Fathers and then president of St. Mary’s college. The Sulpicians had taken refuge in the United States from the religious persecution of the Reign of Terror in France and were in the process of establishing the first Catholic seminary for the United States, in keeping with the goals of their society. For several years, Dubourg had envisioned a religious school to meet the educational needs of the new nation’s small Catholic community.

Founder

After struggling through some trying and difficult years, in 1809 Elizabeth accepted the invitation of the Sulpicians and moved to Emmitsburg, Maryland. A year later she established the Saint Joseph’s Academy and Free School, a school dedicated to the education of Catholic girls. This was possible due to the financial support of Samuel Sutherland Cooper, a wealthy convert and seminarian at the newly established Mount Saint Mary’s University, begun by John Dubois, S.S., and the Sulpicians.

On July 31, Elizabeth established a religious community in Emmitsburg dedicated to the care of the children of the poor. This was the first congregation of religious sisters to be founded in the United States, and its school was the first free Catholic school in America. This modest beginning marked the start of the Catholic parochial school system in the United States. The congregation was initially called the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph’s. From that point on, she became known as “Mother Seton”. In 1810, the sisters adopted the rules written by St. Vincent de Paul for the Daughters of Charity in France.

Later life and death

The remainder of her life was spent in leading and developing the new congregation. Mother Seton was described as a charming and cultured lady. Her connections to New York society and the accompanying social pressures to leave the new life she had created for herself did not deter her from embracing her religious vocation and charitable mission. The greatest difficulties she faced were actually internal, stemming from misunderstandings, interpersonal conflicts and the deaths of two daughters, other loved ones, and young sisters in the community.

She died on January 4, 1821, at the age of 46. Today, her remains are entombed in the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg, Maryland, United States of America.

By 1830, the Sisters were running orphanages and schools as far west as Cincinnati and New Orleans and had established the first hospital west of the Mississippi in St. Louis.

Source: Wikipedia