Saint Brigid Religious Education
100 Mayflower Street
West Hartford, CT 06110
Elizabeth Ann Seton
Feast day: January 4
Elizabeth Bayley Seton was the first native born American to be
canonized by the Catholic Church.
Born two years before the American Revolution, Elizabeth grew up in the
"cream" of New York society. She was a prolific reader, and read
everything from the Bible to contemporary novels.
In spite of her high society background, Elizabeth's early life was
quiet, simple, and often lonely. As she grew a little older, the Bible
was to become her continual instruction, support and comfort; she would
continue to love the Scriptures for the rest of her life.
In 1794, Elizabeth married the wealthy young William Seton, with whom
she was deeply in love. The first years of their marriage were happy and
This time of Elizabeth's life was to be a brief moment of earthly
happiness before the many deaths and partings she was to suffer. Within
four years, Will's father died, leaving the young couple in charge of
Will's seven half brothers and sisters, as well as the family's
importing business. Now events began to move fast, and with devastating
effect. Both Will's business and his health failed. He was finally
forced to file a petition of bankruptcy. In a final attempt to save
Will's health, the Setons sailed for Italy, where Will had business
friends. Will died of tuberculosis while in Italy. Elizabeth's one
consolation was that Will had recently awakened to the things of God.
The many enforced separations from dear ones by death and distance,
served to draw Elizabeth's heart to God and eternity. The accepting and
embracing of God's will, "The Will," as she called it, would be a
keynote in her spiritual life.
Elizabeth's deep concern for the spiritual welfare of her family and
friends eventually led her into the Catholic Church.
In Italy, Elizabeth captivated everyone by her own kindness, patience,
good sense, wit and courtesy. During this time Elizabeth became
interested in the Catholic Faith, and over a period of months, her
Italian friends guided her in Catholic instructions. Elizabeth's desire
for the Bread of Life was to be a strong force leading her to the
Having lost her mother at an early age, Elizabeth felt great comfort in
the idea that the Blessed Virgin was truly her mother. She asked the
Blessed Virgin to guide her to the True Faith. Elizabeth finally joined
the Catholic Church in 1805.
At the suggestion of the president of St. Mary's College in Baltimore,
Maryland, Elizabeth started a school in that city. She and two other
young women, who helped her in her work, began plans for a Sisterhood.
They established the first free Catholic school in America. When the
young community adopted their rule, they made provisions for Elizabeth
to continue raising her children.
On March 25, 1809, Elizabeth Seton pronounced her vows of poverty,
chastity, and obedience, binding for one year. From that time she was
called Mother Seton.
Although Mother Seton was now afflicted with tuberculosis, she continued
to guide her children. The Rule of the Sisterhood was formally ratified
in 1812. It was based upon the Rule St. Vincent de Paul had written for
his Daughters of Charity in France. By 1818, in addition to their first
school, the sisters had established two orphanages and another school.
Today six groups of sisters trace their origins to Mother Seton's
For the last three years of her life, Elizabeth felt that God was
getting ready to call her, and this gave her joy. Mother Seton died in
1821 at the age of 46, only sixteen years after becoming a Catholic. She
was canonized on September 14, 1975.