Today is the feast of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the founder of the American Daughters of Charity who gave us St. Vincent’s Hospital.
Born of prominent New Yorkers in1774, Elizabeth Ann’s father was a descendent from French Huguenots, while her mother was the daughter of an Episcopalian bishop. At nineteen, Elizabeth married the owner of a shipping line, and she gave birth to five children. Her husband, impoverished by shipping losses, fell ill; and Elizabeth, in hopes of saving him in a warmer climate, brought him and one daughter to Italy. Arrived there, her husband William died while still in quarantine.
In two years of struggling to keep her daughter and herself alive, Elizabeth was drawn to the Catholic Faith of the Italians who treated her and her daughter with warmth. On her return to
the States she was received into the Catholic Church.
A woman of great kindness and strength, she made an attempt at operating a hospital for the poor, but it failed for lack of funds. Elizabeth then met up with a number of Sulpician Fathers who had been banished from France by the Revolution. They opened a seminary for priests in Emmitsburg Maryland, and at their invitation she moved her little family to Maryland, where she opened America’s first Catholic school. It was there that Elizabeth also succeeded in founding an order of religious sisters dedicated to teaching the young to live by Christian principles.
On this day we express our fullest gratitude for the Daughters of Charity who have worked among us here at St. Vincent’s and at Catherine Laboure. We have all benefitted from those truly great ladies who have silently led great lives of service in our midst.