St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
January 4, Foundress and first superior of the sisters of charity.


Roman martyrology: In the town of Emmitsburg, Maryland in the United States, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton as soon as she became a widow, embraced the Catholic faith and worked tirelessly to found the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of San Jose, in order to educate children and care for poor children.

Canonization date: September 14, 1975 by Pope Paul VI

Etymology: Greek form of the Hebrew name Elisheva meaning "My God is abundance".


This first American-born saint accomplished more in twelve years than most people do in a whole lifetime. From 1809 to 1821, the year she died, she laid the foundation for the Catholic parochial system in the United States, founded her Sisters of Charity, ran her school and lived with her community at her headquarters in Emmitsburg, Maryland. She was loving wife, devoted mother, foundress, and saint.

Elizabeth was born into a wealthy and influential Episcopalian family. Daughter of Dr. Richard Bayley; Elizabeth was raised in the New York’s high society of the late 18th century. Her mother died when Elizabeth was three years old, her baby sister a year later. In 1794 at age 19 she married the wealthy businessman William Magee Seton, and was the mother of five.

About ten years into the marriage, William’s business failed, and soon after he died of tuberculosis, leaving Elizabeth an impoverished widow with five small children. For years Elizabeth had felt drawn to Catholicism, and influenced by her stay in Italy, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton became a Catholic upon her return to the United States, against the opposition of her family, entering the Church on 14 March 1805, alienating many of her strict Episcopalian family in the process.

To support her family, and insure the proper education of her children, she opened her own school in Boston in August 1807, when she was invited by the superior of the Baltimore Sulpicians to found a school for girls near the Sulpician seminary. With the help of Archbishop Carroll, she organized a group of young women to assist her in her work, received a religious rule and habit from him, and took the vows of religion.

 Though a private and secular institution, from the beginning she ran it along the lines of a religious community. At the invitation of the archbishop, she established a Catholic girl‘s school in Baltimore, Maryland, which initiated the parochial school system in America. To run the system she founded the Sisters of Charity in 1809, the first Native American religious community for women.

She died at Emmitsburg on January 4, 1821, and was canonized by Pope Paul VI on September 14, 1975. Her body is enshrined at the motherhouse of the American Sisters of Charity in Emmitsburg.


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