samedi 4 janvier 2014


Sainte Elizabeth Ann Seton

Fondatrice des Sœurs de la Charité de Saint-Joseph ( 1821)

ou Betty-Ann. 

Née à New York, dans une famille de médecins, l'année même où éclatait la guerre d'indépendance, élevée dans l'Église épiscopalienne, mariée à dix-neuf ans, elle fut une mère de famille attentive à l'égard de ses cinq enfants. Veuve à vingt-neuf ans, elle se convertit au catholicisme et se donne entièrement au service de l'Église et de la société américaine. Elle fonde alors un Institut religieux qui donna naissance au réseau scolaire et hospitalier américain.

À Emmestsbourg, dans le Maryland aux États-Unis d’Amérique, en 1821, sainte Élisabeth-Anne Setton qui, devenue veuve, fit profession de foi catholique et déploya son activité à l’instruction des jeunes filles et à l’éducation des enfants pauvres, avec la Congrégation des Sœurs de la Charité de Saint Joseph qu’elle avait fondée.

Martyrologe romain

Sainte Elizabeth Ann Seton

Fondatrice des « Sœurs de la Charité de Saint-Joseph »

Elizabeth Ann Seton ou Betty-Ann naquit le 28 août 1774 à New York, dans une famille de médecins, l'année même où éclatait la guerre d'indépendance.

Élevée dans l'Église épiscopalienne, elle épousa en 1794 William Seton dont elle eut cinq enfants. Elle se montra une mère de famille attentive.

Les deux époux firent un voyage en Italie et au cours de leur séjour, William, qui était malade, mourut la laissant veuve à vingt-neuf ans.

Elizabeth se convertit au catholicisme et se consacra entièrement au service de l'Église et de la société américaine. Elle fonda alors, en 1809 à Baltimore, un Institut religieux, les Sœurs de la Charité de Saint-Joseph, qui donna naissance au réseau scolaire et hospitalier américain.

Elle s'endormit dans le Seigneur le 4 janvier 1821.

Elizabeth Ann Seton a été béatifiée, le 17 mars 1963, par le Bx Jean XXIII (Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli, 1958-1963) et canonisée, le 14 septembre 1975, par le Serviteur de Dieu Paul VI (Giovanni Battista Montini, 1963-1978).

Sainte Elizabeth Ann Seton est la sainte patronne des veuves, des enfants proches de la mort et des instituteurs.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

Foundress and first superior of the Sisters of Charity in the United States; born in New York City, 28 Aug., 1774, of non-Catholic parents of high position; died at Emmitsburg, Maryland, 4 Jan., 1821.

Her father, Dr. Richard Bayley (born in Connecticut and educated in England), was the first professor of anatomy at Columbia College and eminent for his work as health officer of the Port of New York. Her mother, Catherine Charlton, daughter of an Anglican minister of Staten Island, N.Y., died when Elizabeth was three years old, leaving two other young daughters. The father married again, and among the children of this second marriage was Guy Charleton Bayley, whose convert son, James Roosevelt Bayley, became Archbishop of Baltimore. Elizabeth always showed great affection for her stepmother, who was a devout Anglican, and for her stepbrothers and sisters. Her education was chiefly conducted by her father, a brilliant man of great natural virtue, who trained her to self-restraint as well as in intellectual pursuits. She read industriously, her notebooks indicating a special interest in religious and historical subjects. She was very religious, wore a small crucifix around her neck, and took great delight in reading the Scriptures, especially the Psalms, a practice she retained until her death.

She was married on 25 Jan., 1794, in St. Paul's Church, New York, to William Magee Seton, of that city, by Bishop Prevoost. In her sister-in-law, Rebecca Seton, she found the "friend of her soul", and as they went about on missions of mercy they were called the "Protestant Sisters of Charity". Business troubles culminated on the death of her father-in-law in 1798. Elizabeth and her husband presided over the large orphaned family; she shared his financial anxieties, aiding him with her sound judgment. Dr. Bayley's death in 1801 was a great trial to his favourite child. In her anxiety for his salvation she had offered to God, during his fatal illness, the life of her infant daughter Catherine. Catherine's life was spared, however, she died at the age of ninety, as Mother Catherine of the Sisters of Mercy, New York. In 1803 Mr. Seton's health required a sea voyage; he started with his wife and eldest daughter for Leghorn, where the Filicchi brothers, business friends of the Seton firm, resided. The other children, William, Richard, Rebecca, and Catherine, were left to the care of Rebecca Seton.

From a journal which Mrs. Seton kept during her travels we learn of her heroic effort to sustain the drooping spirits of her husband during the voyage, followed by a long detention in quarantine, and until his death at Pisa (27 Dec., 1803). She and her daughter remained for some time with the Filicchi families. While with these Catholic families and in the churches of Italy Mrs. Seton first began to see the beauty of the Catholic Faith. Delayed by her daughter's illness and then by her own, she sailed for home accompanied by Antonio Filicchi, and reached New York on 3 June, 1804. Her sister-in-law, Rebecca, died in July.

A time of great spiritual perplexity began for Mrs. Seton, whose prayer was, "If I am right Thy grace impart still in the right to stay. If I am wrong Oh, teach my heart to find the better way." Mr. Hobart (afterwards an Anglican bishop), who had great influence over her, used every effort to dissuade her from joining the Catholic Church, while Mr. Filicchi presented the claims of the true religion and arranged a correspondence between Elizabeth and Bishop Cheverus. Through Mr. Filicchi she also wrote to Bishop Carroll. Elizabeth meanwhile added fasting to her prayers for light. The result was that on Ash Wednesday, 14 March, 1805, she was received into the Church by Father Matthew O'Brien in St. Peter's Church, Barclay Street, New York. On 25 March she made her first Communion with extraordinary fervour; even the faint shadow of this sacrament in the Protestant Church had had such an attraction for her that she used to hasten from one church to another to receive it twice each Sunday. She well understood the storm that her conversion would raise among her Protestant relatives and friends at the time she most needed their help. Little of her husband's fortune was left, but numerous relatives would have provided amply for her and her children had not this barrier been raised. She joined an English Catholic gentleman named White, who, with his wife, was opening a school for boys in the suburbs of New York, but the widely circulated report that this was a proselytizing scheme forced the school to close.

A few faithful friends arranged for Mrs. Seton to open a boarding-house for some of the boys of a Protestant school taught by the curate of St. Mark's. In January, 1806, Cecilia Seton, Elizabeth's young sister-in-law, became very ill and begged to see the ostracized convert; Mrs. Seton was sent for, and became a constant visitor. Cecilia told her that she desired to become a Catholic. When Cecilia's decision was known threats were made to have Mrs. Seton expelled from the state by the Legislature. On her recovery Cecilia fled to Elizabeth for refuge and was received into the Church. She returned to her brother's family on his wife's death. Mrs. Seton's boarding-house for boys had to be given up. Her sons had been sent by the Filicchis to Georgetown College. She hoped to find a refuge in some convent in Canada, where her teaching would support her three daughters. Bishop Carroll did not approve, so she relinquished this plan. Father Father Dubourg, S.S., from St. Mary's Seminary, Baltimore, met her in New York, and suggested opening in Baltimore a school for girls. After a long delay and many privations, she and her daughters reached Baltimore on Corpus Christi, 1808. Her boys were brought there to St. Mary's College, and she opened a school next to the chapel of St. Mary's Seminary and was delighted with the opportunities for the practice of her religion, for it was only with the greatest difficulty she was able to get to daily Mass and Communion in New York. The convent life for which she had longed ever since her stay in Italy now seemed less impracticable. Her life was that of a religious, and her quaint costume was fashioned after one worn by certain nuns in Italy. Cecilia Conway of Philadelphia, who had contemplated going to Europe to fulfill her religious vocation, joined her; soon other postulants arrived, while the little school had all the pupils it could accommodate.

Mr. Cooper, a Virginian convert and seminarian, offered $10,000 to found an institution for teaching poor children. A farm was bought half a mile from the village of Emmitsburg and two miles from Mt. St. Mary's College. Meanwhile Cecilia Seton and her sister Harriet came to Mrs. Seton in Baltimore. As a preliminary to the formation of the new community, Mrs. Seton took vows privately before Archbishop Carroll and her daughter Anna. In June, 1809, the community was transferred to Emmitsburg to take charge of the new institution. The great fervour and mortification of Mother Seton, imitated by her sisters, made the many hardships of their situation seem light. In Dec., 1809, Harriet Seton, who was received into the Church at Emmitsburg, died there, and Cecilia in Apr., 1810.

Bishop Flaget was commissioned in 1810 by the community to obtain in France the rules of the Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. Three of these sisters were to be sent to train the young community in the spirit of St. Vincent de Paul, but Napoleon forbade them to leave France. The letter announcing their coming is extant at Emmitsburg. The rule, however, with some modifications, was approved by Archbishop Carroll in Jan., 1812, and adopted.

Against her will, and despite the fact that she had also to care for her children, Mrs. Seton was elected superior. Many joined the community; Mother Seton's daughter, Anna, died during her novitiate (12 March, 1812), but had been permitted to pronounce her vows on her death-bed. Mother Seton and the eighteen sisters made their vows on 19 July, 1813. The fathers superior of the community were the Sulpicians, Fathers Dubourg, David, and Dubois. Father Dubois held the post for fifteen years and laboured to impress on the community the spirit of St. Vincent's Sisters of Charity, forty of whom he had had under his care in France. The fervour of the community won admiration everywhere. The school for the daughters of the well-to-do prospered, as it continues to do (1912), and enabled the sisters to do much work among the poor. In 1814 the sisters were given charge of an orphan asylum in Philadelphia; in 1817 they were sent to New York. The previous year (1816) Mother Seton's daughter, Rebecca, after long suffering, died at Emmitsburg; her son Richard, who was placed with the Filicchi firm in Italy, died a few years after his mother. William, the eldest, joined the United States Navy and died in 1868. The most distinguished of his children are Most. Rev. Robert Seton, Archbishop of Heliopolis (author of a memoir of his grandmother, "Roman Essays", and many contributions to the "American Catholic Quarterly" and other reviews), and William Seton.

Mother Seton had great facility in writing. Besides the translation of many ascetical French works (including the life of Saint Vincent de Paul, and of Mlle. Le Gras) for her community she has left copious diaries and correspondence that show a soul all on fire with the love of God and zeal for souls. Great spiritual desolation purified her soul during a great portion of her religious life, but she cheerfully took the royal road of the cross. For several years the saintly bishop (then Father) Bruti was her director. The third time she was elected mother (1819) she protested that it was the election of the dead, but she lived for two years, suffering finally from a pulmonary affection. Her perfect sincerity and great charm aided her wonderfully in the work of sanctifying souls. In 1880 Cardinal Gibbons (then Archbishop) urged the steps be taken toward her canonization. The result of the official inquiries in the cause of Mother Seton, held in Baltimore during several years, were brought to Rome by special messenger, and placed in the hands of the postulator of the cause on 7 June, 1911.

Her cause is entrusted to the Priests of the Congregation of the Mission, whose superior general in Paris is also superior of the Sisters of Charity with which the Emmitsburg community was incorporated in 1850, after the withdrawal of the greater number of the sisters (at the suggestion of Archbishop Hughes) of the New York houses in 1846. This union had been contemplated for some time, but the need of a stronger bond at Emmitsburg, shown by the New York separation, hastened it. It was effected with the loss of only the Cincinnati community of six sisters. With the Newark and Halifax offshoots of the New York community and the Greenburg foundation from Cincinnati, the sisters originating from Mother Seton's foundation number (1911) about 6000. The original Emittsburg community now wearing the cornette and observing the rule just as St. Vincent gave it, naturally surpasses any of the others in number. It is found in about thirty dioceses in the United States and forms a part of the worldwide sisterhood, whilst the others are rather diocesan communities.

[Note: Elizabeth Ann Seton was beatified in 1963 and canonized on September 14, 1975.]


13 vols. of letters, diaries, and documents by Mother Seton as well as information concerning her, are in the archives of the mother-house at Emmitsburg, Maryland; ROBERT SETON, Memoirs, Letter and Journal of Elizabeth Seton (2 vols., New York, 1869); BARBEREY, Elizabeth Seton (6th ed., 2 vols., Paris, 1892); WHITE, Life of Mrs. Eliza. A. Seton (10th ed., New York, 1904); SADLIER, Elizabeth Seton, Foundress of the Amer. Sisters of Charity (New York, 1905); BELLOC, Historic Nuns (2nd ed., London, 1911).

Randolph, Bartholomew. "St. Elizabeth Ann Seton." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 13. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 4 Jan. 2016 <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Thomas M. Barrett. Dedicated to Saint Elizabeth A. Seton.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. February 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, D.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was the first native born American to be canonized by the Catholic Church. Born two years before the American Revolution, Elizabeth grew up in the “cream” of New York society. She was a prolific reader, and read everything from the Bible to contemporary novels.

In spite of her high society background, Elizabeth’s early life was quiet, simple, and often lonely. As she grew a little older, the Bible was to become her continual instruction, support and comfort; she would continue to love the Scriptures for the rest of her life.

In 1794, Elizabeth married the wealthy young William Seton, with whom she was deeply in love. The first years of their marriage were happy and prosperous. Elizabeth wrote in her diary at first autumn, “My own home at twenty-the world-that and heaven too-quite impossible.”

This time of Elizabeth’s life was to be a brief moment of earthly happiness before the many deaths and partings she was to suffer. Within four years, Will’s father died, leaving the young couple in charge of Will’s seven half brothers and sisters, as well as the family’s importing business. Now events began to move fast – and with devastating effect. Both Will’s business and his health failed. He was finally forced to file a petition of bankruptcy. In a final attempt to save Will’s health, the Setons sailed for Italy, where Will had business friends. Will died of tuberculosis while in Italy. Elizabeth’s one consolation was that Will had recently awakened to the things of God.

The many enforced separations from dear ones by death and distance, served to draw Elizabeth’s heart to God and eternity. The accepting and embracing of God’s will – “The Will,” as she called it – would be a keynote in her spiritual life. Elizabeth’s deep concern for the spiritual welfare of her family and friends eventually led her into the Catholic Church.

In Italy, Elizabeth captivated everyone by her own kindness, patience, good sense, wit and courtesy. During this time Elizabeth became interested in the Catholic Faith, and over a period of months, her Italian friends guided her in Catholic instructions. Elizabeth’s desire for the Bread of Life was to be a strong force leading her to the Catholic Church.

Having lost her mother at an early age, Elizabeth felt great comfort in the idea that the Blessed Virgin was truly her mother. She asked the Blessed Virgin to guide her to the True Faith. Elizabeth finally joined the Catholic Church in 1805.

At the suggestion of the president of St. Mary’s College in Baltimore, Maryland, Elizabeth started a school in that city. She and two other young women, who helped her in her work, began plans for a Sisterhood. They established the first free Catholic school in America. When the young community adopted their rule, they made provisions for Elizabeth to continue raising her children. On March 25, 1809, Elizabeth Seton pronounced her vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, binding for one year. From that time she was called Mother Seton.

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.

For the last three years of her life, Elizabeth felt that God was getting ready to call her, and this gave her joy. Mother Seton died in 1821 at the age of 46, only sixteen years after becoming a Catholic. She was canonized on September 14, 1975.


Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton (RM)

Born in New York, New York, United States of America, August 28, 1774; died in Emmitsburg, Maryland, USA, January 4, 1821; beatified by Pope John XXIII; canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1975.

When I consider the life of Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton, I am reminded that we must be ever conscious that we are children of the King and Queen. With that in mind, we must act with the magnanimity of our Father because we never know when God will use us to draw others to Himself.

Elizabeth Seton, the first native-born citizen of the United States ever to be canonized, was born into the devout Episcopalian family headed by her father Dr. Richard Bayley, a well-known physician and professor of anatomy at King's College (now Columbia), and her mother Catherine Charlton, who was the daughter of the Anglican rector of Saint Andrew's Church, Staten Island. Her mother died when Elizabeth was three-years-old. Although her father remarried, Elizabeth and her younger sister Mary were his favorites.

Her unusual, but far-reaching, education and character formation were his supreme concerns. He taught her to curb her natural vivaciousness. Dr. Bayley's second wife had seven children, so these two were under the special care of their father. (It may be worth noting that one of Elizabeth's stepbrothers became the Catholic Archbishop James Roosevelt Bayley of Baltimore.) Elizabeth was 11-years-old when the Revolutionary War ended. Bayley was a Loyalist during the British occupation of New York.

Even in childhood, Elizabeth delighted in prayer and in spiritual reading, especially the lives of the saints, the Bible, and Imitation of Christ. She was also devoted to her Guardian Angel.

After the war, Bayley was made Inspector General in the New York Department of Health. In 1792, he was appointed to the Anatomy Chair in the Department of Medicine at Columbia College.

At 19 (in 1794), Elizabeth married William Magee Seton, a first- generation American of English parentage and heir-apparent to a rich shipping firm. After her marriage, Elizabeth became an active philanthropist, so active that she became known in New York as the "Protestant Sister of Charity." In 1797, already the mother of two, she was one of the founders of a society designed to help poor widows with small children.

William and Elizabeth were deeply in love and gave life to five children: Anna Maria was born in 1795; William, Jr. in 1796; Richard; Catherine; and Rebecca (b. 1802). Financial calamity visited the family business in the form of the war between France and England--many of their ships were seized--and the business failed. William's father died leaving him to look after his siblings. Then his health, too, failed--he contracted tuberculosis. In 1802, her father, Dr. Bayley, who had pioneered research in surgery, diphtheria, and yellow fever, contracted yellow fever and died.

Because of his tuberculosis, William's doctors felt he should spend winter in sunny Italy in 1803-1804. He had been a guest there of the Filicchi brothers in Leghorn several years before his marriage. So Elizabeth, William, and the eldest daughter Anna Maria arranged to spend several months with the Filicchi's.

Due to a yellow fever epidemic in New York, they were quarantined on the ship for four weeks after the seven-week voyage. Elizabeth never complained about the sad state of affairs, even in her diary. She took everything cheerfully as permitted by a loving God for their good. William Seton died in Pisa, Italy, in December 1803-- nine days after their release from quarantine--but had progressed much spiritually during their confinement.

Elizabeth converted to Catholicism primarily due to God, but instrumentally due to the Filicchi family, especially Antonio. They visited Florence. She went to church with Signora Filicchi and experienced a crisis when she saw the elevated Host one Sunday. Living with the Filicchi's dispelled her myths regarding Catholicism, because of their piety, virtue, love for one another, and charity. "If the practice of the Catholic faith could produce such interior holiness," she felt she must learn more about their Church. Sra. Filicchi kept a strict Lenten fast--allowing nothing until after 3:00 p.m. Elizabeth liked going to Mass every day.

Antonio Filicchi advised her that only the Catholic Church had the true faith and asked her to seek and pray for enlightenment. Elizabeth returned to New York on June 3, 1804, and put herself under instruction. Unfortunately, she advised her Rector Hobart and her family of her decision. All tried to sway her. She fell into despair until Epiphany 1805, when her reading roused her to action.

She was received into the Catholic Church on the March 14, 1805, with Antonio Filicchi as her sponsor. Elizabeth had returned to a bankrupt firm, so she was entirely dependent upon her relatives for her support. It would have been easy, if she had remained an Episcopalian. Instead, she was ostracized by her family and friends when she became a Catholic, except by her two sisters-in- law, Harriet and Cecilia Seton.

Antonio, Father O'Brien (the Dominican Rector of Saint Peter's Church), and Father Cheverus of Boston helped her financially. She decided to teach at a new girls' school, but it was rumored that she would instill Catholicism among her students and after three months, the school lost all its pupils and had to close. So, she arranged another teaching position. Fifteen-year-old Cecilia Seton announced then that she was becoming Catholic and was thrown out of her home. Cecilia sought refuge with Elizabeth setting off a storm that had Elizabeth lose this second job.

Elizabeth sought a new calling. A new, very holy priest came into her life--Father William Valentine du Bourg (Dubourg), a Sulpician Father, who was President of the Sulpician College of Saint Mary in Baltimore. He said Mass at Saint Peter's in New York in August 1807, when the woman in widow's dress came to receive Communion with tears streaming down her face in rapt devotion.

A few hours later, she called the rectory and requested the privilege of meeting Father du Bourg, who recognized her at once and listened attentively to the story of her conversion and present difficulties. Father du Bourg had been contemplating establishing a Catholic girls' school in Baltimore and proposed that she found a religious community to take up this work, since there was none in Baltimore for teaching.

Bishop John Carroll, Father Cheverus, and Father Matignon were consulted and encouraged her, but they thought she should wait. She waited one year. In June 1808, Father du Bourg met with her in New York again at the home of Mrs. Barry. She immediately went to Baltimore and opened Saint Joseph's School for girls next to the chapel of Saint Mary's Seminary. This marked the beginning of the Catholic system of parochial schools in America.

She and her associates lived as religious under a rule and wore habits. Cecilia Conway of Philadelphia joined her. Another recent convert, Mr. Cooper of Virginia, died leaving money for the education of poor children. With this they bought a farm near Emmitsburg, Maryland. Elizabeth's sisters-in-law Cecilia and Harriet also joined them. Elizabeth and her daughter Anna Maria took private vows before Archbishop Carroll.

In December 1809, Harriet Seton died, Cecilia followed in April 1810. In 1810, Bishop Flaget obtained in France the rule of the Sisters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, changed the rule somewhat. Three sisters were selected to train them, but Napoleon forbade them to leave. The revised rule was approved by Archbishop Carroll in January 1812 and Elizabeth was elected as the Superior of the Daughters of Charity of Saint Joseph. Anna Maria died during her novitiate in 1812, taking her final vows on her deathbed, but Mother Seton and 18 sisters made their vows on July 19, 1813. Thus was founded the first American religious society.

The sisters were very active, establishing a free schools, orphanages, and hospitals. They became most well-known, however, for their work with the then growing parochial school system, which became one of the glories of the Catholic Church in the United States. In addition to her responsibilities to the congregation, Mother Seton personally worked with the poor and sick, composed music, wrote hymns, and penned spiritual discourses.

Of Elizabeth's children, Rebecca died in 1816; Richard died in Italy in 1821 (the same year as his mother Elizabeth); William, Jr. entered the Navy and died in 1868. Mother Catherine Seton, daughter of the saint and the first postulant of the New York Sisters of Mercy, died at age 91 in 1891, she prepared many condemned criminals for death.

Saint Elizabeth was a charming and cultivated woman of determined character. In the face of all the social pressures her 'world,' Elizabeth was devout and comfortable as an Episcopalian, but she persevered in religion and responded to God's call for her to extend and develop the Catholic Church in the United States. Of all the attendant discouragements and difficulties she faced, the hardest to bear were interior to herself; for example, she detested having to exercise authority over others and she suffered much from bouts of spiritual aridity. But she conquered in the Sign she had chosen and conquered heroically.

By the time of her death, her inspiration spread to the founding of nearly two dozen sister communities around the U.S. Today the congregation is one of the most numerous and influential of its kind. Her cause was introduced in 1907 by Cardinal Gibbons, archbishop of Baltimore. Impressive cures claimed as miraculous during her cause include one from leukemia and another from severe meningitis.

In his canonization allocution, at which 1,000 nuns of her order from North and South America, Italy, and missionary countries were represented, the pope stressed her extraordinary contributions as a wife, mother, and consecrated sister; the example of her dynamic and authentic witness for future generations; and the affirmation of "that religious spirituality which your (i.e., American) temporal prosperity seemed to obscure and almost make impossible."

One by one, God took away the foundations on which Elizabeth's comfortable life was built, substituting a faithful Catholic family in Italy, a new faith, and new spiritual guides distinguished for their holiness and wisdom, and led her, like Abraham, into a strange new land (Attwater, Bentley, Cushing, J. Delaney, S. Delany, Farmer, Walsh, White).


Sant' Elisabetta Anna Bayley Seton Vedova

New York, 28 agosto 1774 - 4 gennaio 1821

Originaria di New York, figlia di un medico, Elisabetta Anna Bayley Seton, è nota per aver fondato le «Suore delle carità di san Giuseppe», Congregazione religiosa molto diffusa negli Stati Uniti. Nata il 28 agosto 1774, era di confessione episcopaliana ma dopo la morte del marito da cui aveva avuto 5 figli si convertì al cattolicesimo. Le Sister of charity come vengono chiamate negli Stati Uniti, rappresentarono la prima Congregazione femminile americana. Furono costituite il 1 giugno 1809 e la futura santa ne fu Superiora generale per quasi un decennio dedicandosi con grande impegno al servizio dei poveri e dei sofferenti. Parallelamente s'impegnò con grande dedizione alle scuole parrocchiali. L'Ordine crebbe rapidamente e il 17 gennaio 19812 ottenne l'autorizzazione a seguire, come regola, quello delle suore di san Vincenzo De' Paoli. Elisabetta Anna Bayley vedova Seton morì il 4 gennaio 1821 a 46 anni. Beatificata nel 1963 da Papa Giovanni XXIII, fu canonizzata il 14 settembre 1975 da Paolo VI. (Avvenire)

Etimologia: Elisabetta = Dio è il mio giuramento, dall'ebraico

Martirologio Romano: A Emmetsburg nel Maryland negli Stati Uniti d’America, santa Elisabetta Anna Seton: rimasta vedova, abbracciò la fede cattolica, dedicandosi con sollecitudine all’educazione delle fanciulle e al sostentamento dei ragazzi poveri, insieme con le Suore della Congregazione della Carità di San Giuseppe da lei fondata.

S. Elisabetta Anna Bayley Seton, canonizzata il 14 settembre 1975, nacque a New York il 28 agosto 1774. Il 24 agosto 1794 celebrò le nozze a New York con William Magee Seton, con il quale ebbe quattro figli: Anna Maria, William, Richard e Rebecca. 

Il 27 dicembre 1803 la Seton rimase vedova. Nell’aprile del 1804 ritornò a New York, dopo un soggiorno in Italia nella città di Livorno. Il 4 marzo del 1805 si convertì al cattolicesimo. Dopo aver aperto una scuola femminile nel 1808 a Baltimora insieme a Cecilia O’Conway di Filadelfia, la Santa ed altre consorelle, il 1 giugno del 1809, indossarono l’abito religioso della prima congregazione femminile americana: le Suore di Carità di San Giuseppe.
L’istituzione progredì rapidamente. Il 17 gennaio 1812 le nuove suore ottennero l’approvazione per applicare, come loro regola, quella delle Suore di S. Vincenzo de’ Paoli. 

La madre Seton morì il 4 gennaio 1821. 

Il 28 febbraio 1840 iniziò il processo per la beatificazione e canonizzazione; il 18 settembre 1959 venne dichiarata “Venerabile”, il 17 marzo 1963 fu proclamata Beata dal papa Giovanni XXIII.
La sua memoria liturgica si celebra nel suo dies natalis.

La canonizzazione della Seton si può dire la più significativa dell’anno. In lei fu esaltata la donna: vergine, sposa, vedova e consacrata. Ecco le parole del papa Paolo VI: 

" E’ la prima degli Stati Uniti d’America glorificata da questo incomparabile titolo. Ma che vuol dire: “è Santa”? Noi abbiamo tutti facilmente l’intuizione circa il significato di questa superlativa qualifica; ma ci è poi difficile farne un’analisi esatta; Santa vuol dire perfetta, di una perfezione, che raggiunge il livello più alto che un essere umano possa conseguire. Santa è una creatura umana nella pienezza della sua conformità alla volontà di Dio. Santa è un’anima in cui ogni peccato, principio di morte, sia cancellato, e sostituito da uno splendore vivente di grazia divina. [...] La Seton è americana. Lo diciamo tutti con letizia spirituale, e con intenzione celebrativa della terra e della Nazione, da cui la Seton, primo fiore dell’albo dei Santi, meravigliosamente germogliò. [...] Poi: la Seton nacque, crebbe e fu educata religiosamente a New York nella Comunità Episcopaliana. A questa Chiesa va il merito d’avere svegliato e alimentato il senso religioso e il sentimento cristiano. [...] Noi riconosciamo volentieri questo merito e ben sapendo quanto sia costato a Elizabeth il passaggio alla Chiesa cattolica. [...Trovò] naturale conservare quanto di buono l’appartenenza alla fervorosa Comunità Episcopaliana le aveva insegnato, in tante belle espressioni della pietà religiosa specialmente, e abbia sempre attinto fedeltà di stima e di affetto per le persone, da cui tale professione cattolica l’aveva dolorosamente separata. È motivo per noi di letizia e presagio di sempre migliori rapporti ecumenici notare la presenza a questa cerimonia di distinte personalità Episcopaliane, alle quali, quasi interpretando il cuore della nuova Santa, porgiamo il nostro devoto e augurale saluto. [...] La Seton fu madre di famiglia e simultaneamente fondatrice della prima Congregazione religiosa femminile negli Stati Uniti. Sebbene non unica e non nuova questa sua condizione sociale ed ecclesiale (...), essa distingue in modo particolare (...) per la sua piena femminilità, tanto che, nel momento in cui una Donna viene elevata ai supremi onori da parte della Chiesa cattolica, piace a Noi rilevare la felice coincidenza tra questo evento e l’iniziativa delle Nazioni Unite: l’Anno Internazionale della Donna. Tale programma tende a favorire la consapevolezza del dovere, che su tutti incombe, di riconoscere la vera funzione della donna nel mondo e di contribuire alla sua autentica promozione nella società. Godiamo, altresì, del vincolo che in tal modo si è stabilito tra questo programma e l’odierna canonizzazione, nella quale la Chiesa esalta al massimo grado Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton, elogiando il personale ed eccezionale contributo da lei reso come donna: moglie, cioè e madre e vedova e religiosa!". 

Nelle parole del pontefice non possiamo non notare il tono fortemente ecumenico e di grande fraternità, che ci ricorda i risvolti successivi nella dimensione ecumenica della Chiesa Cattolica, presenti nella Ut unum sint di Giovanni Paolo II, che fanno di Paolo VI, oltre che il "cantore dei Santi", anche, il precursore del cammino ecumenico postconciliare.

Don Marco Grenci