Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

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Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, 1774–1821, American Roman Catholic leader, usually called Mother Seton, b. Elizabeth Ann Bayley, New York City. She was the daughter of a prominent physician. Her husband, William Seton, a successful merchant, died (1803) in Italy, leaving her with five young children. Soon afterward she became (1805) a Roman Catholic. This conversion severed her from her relatives, and she started a school in New York City to support her family. In 1808, invited by Bishop Carroll, she opened a school in Baltimore, then moved (1809) to Emmitsburg, Md., already the seat of a Catholic school for boys, Mt. St. Mary's. There she opened the first Catholic free school, the beginning of American parochial education and also founded St. Joseph's College (for women). About her she formed a community of women, which soon adopted the rule of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, the great sisterhood centered in Paris. This was the first American congregation of Daughters of Charity (or Sisters of Charity). Mother Seton was superior of her community; this had grown into 20 communities before her death. She was beatified in 1963 and canonized in 1975, thereby making her the first native-born American saint. Feast: Jan. 4. Her journals, letters, and memoirs have been published.

See tr. of selected writings by E. Kelly and A. Melville (1987).

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Seton, Saint Elizabeth Ann (1774–1821) US teacher and charity organizer. She joined the Roman Catholic Church in 1805, and soon became a leader in Church works. She founded a school for girls in Maryland, prepared the way for the US parochial school system, and organized the American Sisters of Charity. She was sanctified in 1975. Her feast day is January 4.