- Seton, Saint Elizabeth Ann
orig. Elizabeth Ann Bayley known as Mother Setonborn Aug. 28, 1774, New York, N.Y.died Jan. 4, 1821, Emmitsburg, Md., U.S.; canonized Sept. 14, 1975; feast day January 4U.S. religious leader and educator, the first native-born U.S. citizen canonized by the Roman Catholic church.Born into an upper-class family, she married William Magee Seton in 1794. In 1797 she founded the Society for the Relief of Poor Widows with Small Children, and in 1803 she was herself left a widow with five children. After converting from Episcopalianism to Roman Catholicism in 1805, she opened a free Catholic elementary school in Baltimore, Md., in 1809. In 1813 she founded the Sisters of Charity, the first U.S. religious order, and she served as its superior until her death. She is often considered the mother of the parochial school system in the U.S.
* * *▪ American saintnée Elizabeth Ann Bayleyborn Aug. 28, 1774, New York, N.Y. [U.S.]died Jan. 4, 1821, Emmitsburg, Md., U.S.; canonized 1975; feast day January 4first native-born American to be canonized by the Roman Catholic church. She was the founder of the Sisters of Charity (Charity, Sisters of), the first American religious society.Elizabeth Bayley was the daughter of a distinguished physician. She devoted a good deal of time to working among the poor, and in 1797 she joined Isabella M. Graham (Graham, Isabella Marshall) and others in founding the first charitable institution in New York City, the Society for the Relief of Poor Widows with Small Children, serving as the organization's treasurer for seven years. She had married William M. Seton in 1794, and in 1803 they and the eldest of their five children traveled to Italy for his health. Nevertheless, in part perhaps as an aftereffect of his bankruptcy three years earlier, he died there in December. She returned to New York City and, as a result of her experiences and acquaintances in Italy, joined the Roman Catholic church in 1805. She found it difficult to earn a living, partly because many friends and relatives shunned her after her conversion. For a time she operated a small school for boys.In 1808 Seton accepted an invitation from the Reverend William Dubourg, president of St. Mary's College in Baltimore, Maryland, to open a school for Catholic girls in that city. Several young women joined in her work, and in 1809 her long-held hope to found a religious community was realized when she and her companions took vows before Archbishop John Carroll and became the Sisters of St. Joseph, the first American-based Catholic sisterhood. A few months later Mother Seton and the Sisters moved their home and school to Emmitsburg, Maryland, where they provided free education for the poor girls of the parish—an act later considered by many to be the beginning of Catholic parochial education in the United States. In 1812 the order became the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph under a modification of the rule of the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. Houses of the order were opened in Philadelphia in 1814 and in New York City in 1817. Mother Seton continued to teach and work for the community until her death in 1821, by which time the order had 20 communities. In 1856 Seton Hall College (now University) was named for her. She was canonized in September 1975.Additional ReadingEllin Kelly and Annabelle Melville (eds.), Elizabeth Seton: Selected Writings (1987).
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