*We highlight these Saints to inspire our students and contribute to their growth in Catholic education by fostering understanding and appreciation for Catholic values and teachings. We encourage parents to share the stories of these Saints with their children to deepen their spirituality and motivate them to live their faith with conviction, following the examples of these admired role models.*
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton is known for her remarkable contributions to education and her founding of the Sisters of Charity, the first American religious community for women. Her life is a testament to faith, resilience, and a dedication to serving the less fortunate. Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton is special to our community because of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Regional School, located in Bellmore, NY.
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton was born as Elizabeth Ann Bayley on August 28, 1774, in New York City. was born into a prominent Episcopalian family. Her father, Dr. Richard Bayley, was a physician, and her mother, Catherine Charlton, came from a wealthy and socially prominent family. She was a prolific reader, and read everything from the Bible to contemporary novels. The Bible became her continual source of instruction, support, and comfort, and she would continue to love the Scriptures for the rest of her life. Her early life was marked by hardship, as she experienced the deaths of her mother and younger sister, which had a profound impact on her faith and outlook on life.
“If you are to do His work, the strength will be given to you.”Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton
In 1794, she married William Magee Seton, a wealthy businessman, and the couple had five children. Their marriage was happy and prosperous, and Seton herself described it as heaven. However, tragedy struck when William’s business failed, and he became ill with tuberculosis. In a bid to restore his health, the Seton family traveled to Italy in 1803. Unfortunately, William’s health continued to deteriorate, and he passed away shortly after their arrival. Elizabeth was left a widow with five young children in a foreign land.
The many deaths Elizabeth experienced drew her heart to God and eternity. The accepting and embracing of God’s will – “The Will,” as she called it – would be a huge part of her spiritual life. While in Italy, Elizabeth experienced a deep spiritual awakening through her interactions with Catholicism and her desire for the Eucharist. She converted to Catholicism in 1805, facing opposition from her family and friends back in the United States.
Returning to the United States, Elizabeth faced financial difficulties but remained steadfast in her newfound faith. She felt a calling to serve the poor and the sick, and in 1809, at the suggestion of the president of St. Mary’s College, she established the first Catholic girls’ school in the country in Emmitsburg, Maryland. This school later evolved into the Saint Joseph’s Academy and College, a pioneer in Catholic education in the United States.
In 1809, Elizabeth also founded the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph, the first American religious community for women. On March 25, 1809, Elizabeth Seton pronounced her vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and was called Mother Seton. The sisters focused on education and care for the poor, the sick, and the orphans. Under her guidance, this community grew and spread to other cities, establishing numerous schools and orphanages.
“Trust all, indeed, to Him my dear one; put all in his hands…”Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton
In 1812, Seton was struck by tuberculosis—the very same affliction that had taken her husband’s life. She died on January 4, 1821 at the age of 46. Despite passing at such a young age, her legacy lived on through the Sisters of Charity and her work in education and healthcare. Today, six groups of sisters can trace their origins to Mother Seton’s initial foundation.
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton was canonized by the Catholic Church on September 14, 1975, making her the first native-born American to be declared a saint. She is celebrated for her devotion to God, her pioneering contributions to education, and her lifelong commitment to serving the poor and marginalized. Her legacy endures through the Sisters of Charity and the countless lives she touched through her work.