St. Elizabeth Seton (1774-1821)

Artist: 
Br. Robert Lentz, OFM

Artist's Narrative:
Elizabeth Ann Bayley was born two years before the Declaration of Independence, in New York City. She married William Seton when she was 18 years old. He died when she was 29, leaving her with five children. Three years later she became a Roman Catholic and was shunned by her family. She supported herself and her children by teaching for several years. In 1809, she took religious vows, founding the first U.S. religious community, the Sisters of Charity.

Elizabeth and her companions strove to follow the ideals of St. Vincent de Paul, by serving the poor, the sick, the sorrowful, and children. Their first school was in Emmitsburg, Maryland. In 1813, her community numbered 17. One year later several sisters were sent to Philadelphia to run an orphanage, and in 1817 there were also Sisters of Charity in New York City. In spite of the attention she gave to her religious community and to teaching, however, Elizabeth continued to care for her own children with a mother’s love.

She died of tuberculosis, after suffering for many months. Her legacy is her tremendous love, which she poured out on family, friends, her community, and the poor. Since her death, the Sisters of Charity have spread throughout the United States. Their schools, like the ones in Santa Fe, New Mexico, were among the first on the American frontier.

Her feast day is January 4.

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