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January 4

St Elizabeth Ann Seton - January 4

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

Wife, Mother, Nun, Educator, Foundress

(1774 – 1821)

“We must pray without ceasing, in every occurrence and employment of our lives – that prayer which is rather a habit of lifting up the heart to God as in a constant communication with Him.

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

Saint’s Life Story

Her Family

Elizabeth Ann Bailey was born on August 28, 1774 in New York to a wealthy and illustrious Episcopalian family. Her father was Dr. Richard Bayley, the first professor of anatomy at Columbia College, and her mother was Catherine Charlton, daughter of an Anglican minister.  A daughter of the American Revolution, she was linked by birth and marriage to famous families in New York and enjoyed the luxuries of the upper class.

Early Sufferings

Sufferings which occurred early in her life made her realize that life on earth is only temporary. Elizabeth’s biological mother died when Elizabeth was only three years old; her younger sister died a year later.

Following the death of his first wife, Richard Bayley married Charlotte Amelia Barclay, but the marriage ended in separation due to a marital disagreement. Elizabeth and her sister were scorned by their stepmother. Due to her father’s travel abroad for medical studies, Elizabeth and her sister lived briefly in New Rochelle, New York, with their paternal uncle and his wife. She experienced dark days during this time, but dealt with it by writing her feelings and religious goals down in her journal.


As a young woman, Elizabeth was stunningly beautiful, vibrant, and refined. She was fluent in French, a skilled pianist, and an accomplished equestrian. As such, she became an admired and frequent guest at parties and balls. Soon after their meeting, William Seton, who was twenty-five, fell deeply in love with her. She returned his love and when she was nineteen, they were married.

Married Life

Their marriage began in an elegant home on Wall Street.  William worked hard at his family’s shipping business. Elizabeth was happy in the marriage and the couple had five children. The family was financially secure and healthy, her marriage was untroubled, and Elizabeth was doing the Lord’s work.  She had developed a close friendship with her sister-in-law Rebecca Seton. Together, they went about on missions of mercy caring for the sick, the elderly, widows, and the poor.


About ten years into their marriage, the family shipping business failed, reducing them to near poverty. Then William contracted tuberculosis. After William’s father died, the family fortune declined. Two and a half years later, they were bankrupt and the Setons lost their home and their possessions. In 1803, Elizabeth, William, and their oldest daughter Anna Maria made a sea journey to the warm climate of Italy to visit their friends, the Felicchi family, in a frantic attempt to restore William’s health.

To pay for the voyage, Elizabeth sold the last of her family possessions. The voyage was enjoyable, but arriving at Leghorn they were quarantined in a stone tower outside the city because of the yellow fever epidemic in New York. William’s health deteriorated and he died a month later — two days after Christmas in Pisa, at the age of thirty-seven. Elizabeth was now a twenty-nine year old widow with five young children.

Conversion to Catholicism

The Filicchi family, former business acquaintances welcomed Elizabeth into their home. They introduced her to Catholicism and she began attending Mass with them. She visited many churches, discovered the Memorare prayer to the Virgin Mary, experienced the Sacred Liturgy, inquired about Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist, and began to understand the Church’s unbroken Apostolic succession. She soon fell in love with the Church and realized this was where she belonged. When she returned to New York, Elizabeth converted to Catholicism, entering the Church on March 14, 1805.

First US Catholic Parish School

When Elizabeth arrived back in New York the following summer, her sister-in-law and closest friend, Rebecca, also died. Though heartbroken, Elizabeth strengthened her faith, deepened her devotion to our Blessed Mother, and continued seeking the will of God. Elizabeth’s relatives strongly disapproved of her conversion, ostracizing her socially and financially. She became a teacher in New York, but when word of her conversion to Catholicism spread, the Episcopalian parents whose children she taught withdrew them. She started a boarding house and a school to serve underprivileged Catholic immigrants and to support herself and her five young children. When it failed, neither her family nor friends would help her.

St Elizabeth Ann Seton statue - January 4

Then Elizabeth met a priest, Fr. William Dubourg, then president of St. Mary’s College, Baltimore. She asked for his help so that she could continue teaching. He introduced her to Bishop John Carroll of Baltimore. Her belief in the need for Catholic schools was so strong and she was so determined. So, they asked her to come to Baltimore and open a small parish school.

Founded Sisters of Charity

Elizabeth also founded a religious order, the Sisters of Charity. In a simple four room house, she moved to Emmitsburg, MD where she lived with her five children, ten sisters and two students. It was here that they founded the first Catholic parish grade school in the United States. The school offered a free education to poor girls. Elizabeth was elected superior of the congregation and was henceforth called “Mother Seton.” Her daughters were able to live with her and continue their education at the school, and her sons lived and were educated at the nearby boys’ school. She remained superior until her death at the age of forty-six.

Nourishment from the Eucharist and Scripture

Elizabeth’s love for God and for others was a natural outpouring of the graces she received from her commitment to the Eucharist and to sacred scripture. These graces enabled her to perform many works of love and mercy throughout her. They enabled her to care for orphans, widows, and the poor. They strengthened her to care for her family as well as others through her teaching ministry.

She prayed her way through life’s delights and trials using sacred scripture. Thus, she lived peacefully. One of her favorite passages in the bible was Psalm 23, which provided her with much consolation during difficult times.

Devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary

Elizabeth demonstrated a deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.  She consulted the Blessed Virgin Mary when she was discerning God’s will for her future.  She also chose the name “Mary” for her Confirmation name. After making her Confirmation, she added the name to her own and often signed “MEAS,” which was her abbreviation for Mary Elizabeth Ann Seton.

Her Death

Although Mother Seton was now afflicted with tuberculosis, she continued to guide her children. The Rule of the Sisterhood was formally ratified in 1812. It was based upon the Rule St. Vincent de Paul had written for his Daughters of Charity in France. By 1818, in addition to their first school, the sisters had established two orphanages and another school. Today, six groups of sisters trace their origins to Mother Seton’s initial foundation. Elizabeth continued her work until the age of 46 when she died on January 4, 1821 in Emmitsburg, Maryland, United States. By the time of Elizabeth’s death at the age of 46, there were twenty communities established. 

Born:                   August 28, 1774 in New York City, New York, USA

Died:                   January 4, 1821 in Emmitsburg, Maryland, USA

Beatified:           March 17, 1963, by Pope John XXIII

Canonized:        September 14, 1975, by Pope Paul VI

Feast Day:         January 4

Patron Saint:    Catholic Schools; Diocese of Shreveport, Louisiana; Loss of Children; Loss of Parents; Seafarers; Widows



Jesus was a teacher who explained to all who would listen how much God loved them and how they should live their lives taking care of one another. Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton did much the same. She was concerned about her children’s education, so she started a school in Baltimore. She grew to have a great concern for the education of poor children, and started an order of nuns dedicated to teaching poor children and doing other works of charity. Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton didn’t work miracles or have visions in her lifetime. She did what each of us is to do: live as well as we can the life we’ve been given. 

Are you living as well as you can the life you’ve been given? Pray to God for you to able to follow the example of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton and live this day the way God wants you to.

Source: Adapated from Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton (1774-1821) | Saint Mary’s Press (


Saint Elizabeth, God permitted you to endure many trials in life, but through them all you persevered and deepened your trust in Him. Please pray for me when I encounter difficulties. May I have the faith that you had and discover the riches that you discovered.

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, pray for me. 

Source: Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton – My Catholic Life!

Saint Links 

Aleteia – The unbreakable St. Elizabeth Ann Seton can help us shift our perspective upwards

All Saints & Martyrs – Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton – Foundress and Educator

AnaStpaul – Saint of the Day – 4 January – St Elizabeth Ann Seton (1774-1821)

Angelus – Saint of the day: Elizabeth Ann Seton

A Reason2BCatholic – Saints Alive! | St Elizabeth Ann Seton

Catholic Exchange – St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

Catholic Fire – St. Elizabeth Ann Seton: Woman of Charity, Courage, and Perseverance

Catholic Ireland – Jan 4 – St Elizabeth Ann Bayley-Seton (1774-1821)

Catholic News Agency – St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Feast Day: Jan 04

Catholic Online – St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

CatholicSaints.Info – Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

Franciscan Media – Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

Full Biography of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

Loyola Press – Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Feast day January 4

My Catholic Life – January 4—Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, Religious—Memorial: USA

New Advent – Randolph, B. (1912). St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. In The Catholic Encyclopedia

Saints, Feast, Family – Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton’s Story

Saints for Sinners – Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

Saint Mary’s Press – Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton (1774-1821)

Saint of the Day – January 4 St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

Seton Shrine – The Life of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

uCatholic – Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

Wikipedia – Elizabeth Ann Seton

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