Category Archives: Elizabeth Ann Seton

The Canonization Scrapbooks

This is part of a yearlong series about the early days of the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph’s commemorating the 200th anniversary of the death of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, foundress of the community.  In 1850, the Emmitsburg-based Sisters united with the international community of the French Daughters of Charity.

On September 14, 1975, Mother Seton was recognized by the global church for what many of her devotees already saw her as – the first American-born saint of the Roman Catholic Church!

The Daughters of Charity Provincial Archive contains significant information about the process of Mother Seton’s canonization, including the introduction and advocacy of the cause, correspondence, and investigation into her virtues and miracles.  However, the 23 canonization scrapbooks in the archive reflect what individual people experienced while the event was taking place, both in Rome and in the United States.

Some scrapbooks do not have a name attached to them, but contain many newspaper clippings from around the country about the event, along with American and Vatican memorabilia. 

Other scrapbooks reflect group pilgrimages, such as that of the Emmitsburg Community Chorus, donated to the archives in 2000.

Still more gather photos of that magnificent day in the Eternal City. 

Donors include sisters, priests, supporters of the cause, and members of the Mother Seton Guild, one of the leading groups advocating for the cause.

Taken collectively, these scrapbooks show the effect that Mother Seton’s canonization had on the community and Catholics around the world at a very specific moment in 1975.

Travel information and ticket stubs from Ms. J. Baronett of the Mother Seton Guild

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The Hamilton Letter

This is part of a yearlong series about the early days of the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph’s commemorating the 200th anniversary of the death of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, foundress of the community.  In 1850, the Emmitsburg-based Sisters united with the international community of the French Daughters of Charity.

Lin-Manuel Miranda did not include Mother Seton in his smash Broadway hit Hamilton, but be assured that the two of them ran in the same New York society in the early days of the American experiment at the southern tip of Manhattan.

Many of Mother Seton’s surviving letters from this period of her life discuss the social scene, business partners, her friends, and friends and business partners of her husband, William Magee Seton.  Among these is a draft of a letter to John Wilkes, a friend and cousin-through-marriage to her husband.  Although it is undated, its subject matter reveals that it was written a short time after July 14, the day of Alexander Hamilton’s funeral.

In the heyday of William’s business, the family had lived at 27 Wall Street, a block away from Hamilton’s home and across the street from the office of The Manhattan Company, the predecessor to JPMorgan Chase Bank founded by Hamilton’s dueling partner, Aaron Burr.

At the time of Hamilton’s death, however, John and Charles Wilkes, alongside another related family, were helping Elizabeth (now a widow) and her children through a New York situation that seems highly modern – paying too high a rent on a too-small apartment.  Located on N. Moore Street, today in Tribeca, Elizabeth for the first time had to rely on her relatives’ assistance to make it by, and even pushed back on the suggestion to begin taking in boarders.

Hamilton’s funeral was at Trinity Church, at the end of the Seton’s former neighborhood on Wall Street.  Fresh from the funeral, Charles stopped by Elizabeth’s Moore Street House:

“He was quite pleased with my little House and my darlings whom he found eating their bread and milk with a very good appetite but I observed that he was really so affected at the tolling of the Bells for the death of poor Hamilton that he could scarcely command himself…how much you will be distressed at this melancholy event – the circumstances of which are really too bad to think of”

Although their paths divided significantly, Hamilton going into government and meeting an untimely demise; Burr to a treason trial, a westward land scheme, and undignified obscurity; and Seton to Catholicism and a small town in Maryland, what we refer to as the “Hamilton letter” helps show how closely Mother Seton’s world was intertwined with the world of the early U.S. government and high society.

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The Death of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

This day, January 4, 2021, is a special and significant one for the American Daughters of Charity and the global Vincentian family – the 200th anniversary of the day that the American foundress of the community left this world and entered eternity. 

Elizabeth Bayley Seton was first addressed as Mother Seton by Archbishop John Carroll at the St. Mary’s Seminary on Paca Street in Baltimore on March 25, 1809.  Eleven-and-a-half years after she founded the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph’s, which brought the Rule of St. Vincent to the Western Hemisphere for the first time, and 18 years after the dread tuberculosis took the life of her husband, changing the course of her life forever, Mother Seton succumbed to the disease herself.  She was 46 years old.

The most valuable records of that moment, after midnight on the morning of January 4, come from her Sisters in community; her last living daughter, Catherine; her Sulpician superior, Father John DuBois; and her spiritual director, Father Simon Bruté.  In her bedroom in the Emmitsburg White House, the Sisters of St. Joseph’s gathered for her last moments on this Earth.  The scene, heartbreaking to witness:

“Oh, the beautiful countenance of our Mother at that moment, never can it be effaced from my memory.  As she was too feeble to address them herself, the Rev. Superior, Father Dubois, performed this office in her name, and thus delivered to the assembled community the last will of their dying Mother.”

Father DuBois went on to address the Sisters:  “Mother Seton, being too weak, charges me to recommend to you at this sacred moment, in her place; first, to be united together as true Sisters of Charity; second, to stand most faithfully by your holy rules; third, that I ask pardon for all the scandals she may have given you, that is, for indulgences prescribed during her sickness by me, or the physician.” (V. 2 Annals, 412)

To all assembled, she gave her last pronouncement as Superioress of the community:

“I am thankful sisters, for your kindness, to be present at this trial.  Be children of the Church; be children of the Church” (V. 2 Annals, 412)

Father DuBois gave her the last rites of the Church.

Her last words were the names of the Holy Family.

Father Bruté created emotive, beautiful, haunting images of those last moments.

Today, five religious communities in North America recognize Mother Seton as their foundress:  The Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, Sisters of Charity of New York, Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth, Sisters of Charity of Halifax, and the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill.  The American Daughters of Charity have a special devotion to Mother Seton because of the joining of her Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph’s with the French Daughters of Charity in 1850.  She was canonized in 1975.

In this year 2021, expect us to look at many aspects of Mother Seton’s life and legacy.

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, pray for us!

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