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Tuesday, March 3

Elizabeth Ann Seton ~ Character Counts

The Character Counts Meme posts every first and third Tuesday of the month. I’d love to have you join me for spotlighting, celebrating and honoring people of good character, who’ve led exemplary lives and who’ve lived with honor, integrity, dignity and sacrifice, and those who’ve inspired others by overcome great obstacles in their own lives. I believe that when we celebrate and exhort good character traits, we can turn the tide, and see more of them. At least I’d like to try! If you are joining us, please leave your name and link at the Mr. Linky down below and don’t forget to leave a comment! Blessings!


On September 14, 1975, Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton, was canonized by the Roman Catholic Church, becoming America’s first American-born saint. She was born in New York City on August 28, 1774. She grew up in a wealthy family, as an Episcopalian. Her mother died when she was just three years old.

When she was just nineteen years old, she married William Seton, who was a wealthy business man, and they had five children. Elizabeth enjoyed a privileged social position and was devoted to several charitable activities. In 1803, everything changed for the Seton family. William’s shipping business lost several ships at sea, forcing the business to bankruptcy. Soon thereafter, William developed tuberculosis and his doctors sent them to Italy for the healthier climate. Unfortunately, soon after reaching Italy and while they were still in quarantine, William died.

While waiting for a passage back to the United States, Elizabeth stayed with a wealthy Italian family and was exposed to, and deeply impressed by, their devout Catholic faith. She returned to New York with little money to raise her children and soon made a decision that would make their lives even harder – she converted to Catholicism. It was a difficult time in American history when Catholics often suffered great prejudice. She was then rejected by her friends and family, and struggled to support herself and her children.

A rector in Baltimore heard of her dire situation and invited her to establish a school for girls there. In 1808, Elizabeth embarked on a fantastic new life. She settled in Baltimore and began the Paca Street School, the country’s first Catholic elementary school. Then a year later, she founded the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph’s, a religious community of women devoted to teaching and serving the poor. As the community grew, it opened schools and orphanages in New York and Philadelphia.

On January 4, 1821, at the age of 46, Elizabeth Seton died of tuberculosis, like her husband William before her. By then the Sisters of Charity were spreading across the country. Today Seton’s legacy includes thousands of sisters who work in hundreds of schools, hospitals, and social service centers throughout the world. Her home in Manhattan is now a shrine in her honor and there is a statue of her displayed at Saint Raymond’s Cemetery in the Bronx. Today, her remains are entombed in the Basilica that bears her name – the Basilica of the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton.

Elizabeth was a woman of prayer and service, who was dedicated to following the will of God, and had deep devotion to the Eucharist, the Sacred Scriptures and the Virgin Mary. The 23rd Psalm was her favorite prayer throughout her life. She understood loss and sacrifice, and through service to others experienced fulfillment and purpose. She proved that one person, of good character, can make a difference.

“We must pray literally without ceasing—without ceasing—in every occurrence and employment of our lives . . . that prayer of the heart which is independent of place or situation, or which is rather a habit of lifting up the heart to God as in a constant communication with Him.” ~ Elizabeth Ann Seton.


Travis said...

Great post! It takes a tremendous amount of determination to face those hardships and not grow bitter.

What is the Linky thing all about?

The Surrendered Scribe said...

Definitely a woman of character. What a great choice. I'm swamped this week (and last!) with meetings, appointments, and everything in between. I don't have a CC post this time, but wanted to stop by and say great job, I love this meme!

Avily Jerome said...

Great post, Tracy!

How wonderful would it be to have a legacy like this one?

But even if no one ever recognizes us, we can still emulate her character.

Thanks for the post, Tracy!

gzusfreek said...

We must pray literally without ceasing"

Loved this post, Tracy. Empowering!