Today is the feast of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the founder of the American Daughters of Charity, the ladies who gave us St. Vincent’s Hospital.
Born two years before the American Revolution, Elizabeth Bayley grew up reading everything she could get her hands on. At nineteen married to William Seton a ship owner of New York, Elizabeth was unimaginably happy, and the couple had five healthy children.
All came crashing down with repeated shipping losses, and with William’s health failing him. In hopes of saving William in a warmer climate, Elizabeth and one daughter brought him to Italy, only to have him die while they were still in quarantine.
A devout Anglican, Elizabeth could only seek comfort in the nearby Italian Catholic churches. With those visits repeatedly bringing her into the care of loving Catholic women, Elizabeth found her soul turning that way. Returned to the States, she was received into the Catholic Church.
Exhibiting great spunk, Elizabeth made an attempt at operating a hospital for the poor, but it failed for lack of funds. She met up then with a Sulpician Father who had been banished from France by the Revolution. He opened a seminary for priests in Emmetsburg Maryland, and that led to invite Elizabeth to found a school there.
Elizabeth was so successful with what was America’s first Catholic school that she drew other high-minded young ladies to serve as teachers. On March 25, 1909 they pronounced their religious vows, and from that day on Elizabeth was to be known as Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton.
On this day we express our fullest gratitude to the Daughters of Charity who have worked among us here at St. Vincent’s and at Catherine Laboure. We have all benefitted from the truly great ladies who have led near silent lives of service in our midst.