Today is the feast of the first canonized saint born in what was about to be the United States of America. Elizabeth Ann Bayley, later Mrs. William Magee Seton, still later Elizabeth Ann Mary Seton, and finally Mother Seton, was a daughter, a wife, a mother, a widow, and a founder. She was an Anglican who became a Roman Catholic.
In his homily at her canonization, Pope Paul VI gave credit where credit was due:
"Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton was born, brought up and educated in New York in the Episcopalian Communion. To this Church goes the merit of having awakened and fostered the religious sense and Christian sentiment which in the young Elizabeth were naturally predisposed to the most spontaneous and lively manifestations."
He went on to say:
"For us it is a motive of hope and a presage of ever better ecumenical relations to note the presence at this ceremony of distinguished Episcopalian dignitaries, to whom-interpreting as it were the heartfelt sentiments of the new Saint-we extend our greeting of devotion and good wishes."
Anyone unfamiliar with Mother Seton would do well to begin with the "excellent work", as the Pope called it, by Joseph I. Dirvin, C.M., The Soul of Elizabeth Seton.
More information about her life and work may be found at the web site of The National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, and at the online museum of The Sisters of Charity of New York.
Mother Seton's congregations have served our country for two centuries. They nursed the victims of cholera and yellow fever. The tended the wounded on Civil War battlefields. They cared for orphans and lepers and residents of inner-city housing projects. They educated generations of Catholics in parochial schools, high schools, colleges.
It is a fitting day to say thanks to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and to all the Sisters and Daughters of Charity who followed in her footsteps.
Click here for a beautiful "Litany to Saint Elizabeth Seton", by Sr. M. Irene Fugazy, SC.
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