The Shrine of St Elizabeth Ann Seton at Our Lady of the Rosary Church is housed in a landmark building connected to colonial times through the sanctity of St Elizabeth Ann Seton who lived here. We welcome visitors to this sacred place. In addition to being a place for special devotion to Mother Seton, the Shrine has educational material about her life.
Saint Elizabeth Bayley Seton - Patron
At the canonization of Elizabeth Ann Seton in 1975, Pope Paul VI proclaimed, “Elizabeth Ann Seton is a saint. St Elizabeth Ann Seton is an American. All of us say this with special joy, and with the intention of honoring the land and the nation from which she sprang forth as the first flower in the calendar of the saints. Elizabeth Ann Seton was wholly American! Rejoice for your glorious daughter. Be proud of her. And know how to preserve her fruitful heritage.”
Unquestionably, Elizabeth Seton occupies a unique place in the history of the Catholic Church in the United States. She established the first free Catholic school for girls in the nation and founded the first American congregation of religious sisters, the Sisters of Charity. In 1975 she became the first American-born saint to be canonized by the Vatican.
Born August 28, 1774, just one week before the First Continental Congress, Elizabeth Bayley grew up in New York City during the American Revolution. After the Patriot army fled New York, she lived through the long occupation of the city by the British soldiers, so she experienced sacrifice at an early age. This understanding of the costs of personal beliefs was not lost on Elizabeth as a girl. Her own calling to the Catholic faith would later cost Mother Seton family, friends, and social status.
Born a Protestant, Elizabeth was descended from French Huguenots who included the founders of New Rochelle. Her family were well-to-do aristocrats of New York society. From among many admirers Elizabeth chose to marry William Magee Seton, son of a wealthy shipping merchant. The Setons had five children, and Elizabeth socialized with elite New Yorkers of her time. In 1797, for instance, with the aid of several other women including Mrs. Alexander Hamilton, Elizabeth Seton organized New York’s first private charity, the Society for the Relief of Poor Widows with Small Children, at Trinity Church.
But the happy, prosperous times of her early marriage did not last. Because of the undeclared war with France in the early 1800s, and its adverse effect on shipping, the Setons went bankrupt. William lost his health and he, Elizabeth, and their eldest child set sail for Italy to aid in his recovery. Soon after arriving in Pisa, William died. His business partners, the Filicchi family of Leghorn, Italy, extended hospitality to Elizabeth and her daughter. Elizabeth was impressed with their devout Catholicism. When she and her daughter returned to New York a year later, and to the horror of Elizabeth’s family and friends, she decided to convert.
In March 1805, Elizabeth Seton was received into the Catholic Church by the Rev. Matthew O’Brien, pastor of St Peter’s Roman Catholic Church, then the city’s only Catholic church. For three years she struggled to support herself and her five young children in her native city but without the help of friends or family. Then in 1808 she accepted an invitation from Reverend William Dubourg, President of St Mary’s Seminary, to open a school for girls in Baltimore. There she founded America’s first religious order, the Sisters of Charity. The sisters went on to establish educational institutions, hospitals, and social welfare agencies.
By the time of her death at 46, Mother Seton had raised five children, started the Catholic parochial school system in the United States, and founded the Sisters of Charity. What makes her story more amazing is the early recognition she received from the foremost ecclesiastics of the United States as foundress of the first distinctively American community of women, dedicated to active apostolate of education and charity. At a meeting of the American hierarchy in 1852, Baltimore Archbishop Francis Patrick Kenrick declared, “Elizabeth Seton did more for the church in America than all of us bishops together.”
Timeline of Mother Seton's Life
|Aug 28, 1774||Born in New York City|
|Jan 25,1794||Married William Seton|
|Dec 27, 1803||Death of her Husband|
|March 14, 1805||First Communion|
|May 25, 1806||Confirmation|
|June 16, 1808||Arrival in Baltimore|
|Sept 1808||Opening of Paca Street School|
|Dec 1808||Arrival of the First Postulant|
|March 25, 1809||Her First Vows: Received Title of "Mother"|
|June 1, 1809||Sisters Adopted Religious Habit|
|June 24, 1809||Arrival at St Joseph's Valley (Emmitsburg, MD)|
|July 31, 1809||Community Life Began in Seton House|
|Feb 22, 1810||Opening of Free School at St Joseph's|
|Jan 4, 1821||Death of Mother Seton|
|1907||Information Process of Cause Began|
|Feb 28, 1940||Introduction of Cause Signed by Pope Pius XII in Rome|
|Dec 18, 1959||Declared Venerable (Heroic in Virtue) by John XXIII in Rome|
|March 17, 1963||Beatification (Declared Blessed)|
|Aug 28,1974||200th Anniversary of Birth|
|Dec 12, 1974||Decree Authorizing Canonization Issued by Pope Paul VI|
|Sept 4, 1975||Canonization in Rome|