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Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

Born: August 28th, 1774     Died: January 4th, 1821
Feast Day: January 4th

What she said

"The first purpose of our daily work is to do the will of God; secondly, to do it in the manner He wills; and thirdly, to do it because it is His will."

What the world was like

Elizabeth Ann Seton was born two years before the American Revolution. During her lifetime, Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, Paul Revere made his famous ride, and the United States won its independence from England. George Washington became the first president of the United States. The New York Stock and Exchange Board was founded. The industrial revolution took place, shifting workers from farms to factories. The United States made the Louisiana Purchase, greatly increasing the size of the country. The purchase led to the Lewis and Clark expeditions. The War of 1812 took place between the United States and Great Britain.

In other parts of the world, the French Revolution took place. Napoleon crowned himself Emperor of France and tried to conquer Europe. Mozart wrote his first symphony. Some important inventions included the circular saw, the hot air balloon, bifocals, the parachute, steam powered boats, the steam locomotive, the cotton gin, artificial teeth, vaccinations, and the stethoscope.

Who she was

Elizabeth was born in New York City. She was the daughter of a wealthy Protestant physician and was a part of the high society of New York. When Elizabeth was three years old, her mother died. Her early years were often lonely and she spent much of her time reading. One of her favorite books to read was the Bible.

When Elizabeth was nineteen years old, she married William Magee Seton, a wealthy businessman. Their first years together were happy and successful. Together they had five children. After they had been married about ten years, William's business failed and he became very ill with tuberculosis. To improve his health, the Setons traveled to Italy where William had friends. William died there. William's Italian friends introduced Elizabeth to the Catholic faith, and she became a Catholic in 1805.

Elizabeth Ann Seton returned home and was rejected by many of her Protestant family members and friends because of her Catholic faith. Without any help from her family, Elizabeth Ann Seton had to earn a living and provide an education for her family. She started a Catholic school in Baltimore, Maryland, with two other young women. This began the tradition of Catholic parochial schools in America. In 1809, Elizabeth Ann Seton founded the Sisters of Charity to help run this school system. This order was the first native religious community for women in America.

Elizabeth Ann Seton was kind, courteous, and patient. Daily, she sought to know and accept the will of God in her life. She spent much time reading Scripture and journaling. She died of tuberculosis in 1821.

What this saint means to us today

Elizabeth Ann Seton faced many losses in her life. The deaths of many family members and the loss of financial security strengthened her faith in God and her desire to do his will. Elizabeth Ann Seton is an example to us when we are faced with difficult times and losses in our lives.

Elizabeth Ann Seton began the first Catholic parochial school in America. Catholic parochial schools continue to educate children in America today. There are six groups of religious women who can trace their beginnings to Elizabeth Ann Seton's original order of the Sisters of Charity in America.

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