B. THE SCHOOL PATRONESS:
St. Elizabeth Ann Bailey-Seton
Elizabeth Ann Bailey-Seton was born on August 28, 1774 in New York to a devout and wealthy Episcopalian
family. In 1794, at the age of 19, Elizabeth married William Magee Seton, a
prosperous banker and merchant and had five children:
Anna Maria, William, Richard Bayley, Catherine Charlton and Rebecca Mary.
In the fall of 1803, an ailing William brought his wife and daughter Anna
Maria to the warmer climates of Italy to visit the Felicchi family who were
renowned merchant of Livorno. Discovered to
have been suffering from yellow fever, William, died in December 27 of the
same year in Pisa, which left
a widow at the age of 29.
The Felicchi’s provided gracious hospitality to the widow and child until
they returned to America the next spring. While in Italy on the other hand, Elizabeth was introduced by the Filicchi’s to
the Catholic religion arousing her interest to the Sacred Liturgy.
Elizabeth left the
United States a firm Protestant, she returned to the United States
with the heart of a Roman Catholic which was ostracized by family and
friends. In her discernment she sought the guidance of the first Bishop of
Boston, Rev. John Cheverus, who reinforced her conversion to embrace Roman
Catholicism taking her religious vows in 1805.
Rev. Louis William Dubourg, S.S., a Sulpician priest met
Elizabeth during a trip to
in 1806. Impressed by her commitment to her faith, the Sulpicians invited Elizabeth to join them in Maryland where they have established a
sisterhood they have named “Sisters of Charity of Saint Joseph's” where
later she was named “Mother Seton”.
opened Saint Joseph's Free School
in February 22, 1810 to educate needy girls of the area; this was considered
as the first free Catholic school for girls staffed by sisters in the
country. The Sisters of Charity later spread its wings to open orphanages in Philadelphia and
died of tuberculosis in Emmitsburg,
Maryland on January 4, 1821. By
this time her congregation, the first to be founded in America has ventured to servicing
orphanages, hospitals, child care institutions, homes for the aged and
handicapped schools at every level.
work of education and charity lives on in
Elizabeth's spiritual daughters around the world.
Archbishop James Gibbons of Baltimore initiated her
cause for canonization in 1882. Blessed John XXIII declared Elizabeth venerable in December 18, 1959, and
also beatified her on March 17, 1963. Pope Paul VI canonized Saint Elizabeth
Ann Seton September 14 during the Holy Year of 1975 and the International
Year of the Woman.