On the 11th Day of Christmas, the Feast of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
On certain days of the year, including on the 11th day of Christmas, the Vatican allows the various dioceses to choose their own topic of worship for that day. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has chosen to celebrate the Feast of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton this day.
St. Seton was the first American to be canonized as a Saint in the Catholic Church. Born into wealth and New York City society in 1774, she was a wife by age 19, a mother to 11 children (5 of her own) by 28, and a widow by the age of 29. She was confirmed into the Catholic Church in 1805. A French abbot who was then the President of St. Mary’s College in Baltimore, Maryland invited her to travel there and she accepted. Then, with funding from a rich benefactor, she established the Saint Joseph’s Academy and Free School, a school dedicated to educating Catholic girls.
The same year, Seton established a religious community in Emmitsburg dedicated to caring for poor children. This was the first congregation of religious sisters to be founded in the United States, and its school was the first free Catholic school in America. “This modest beginning marked the start of the Catholic parochial school system in the United States. The congregation was initially called the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph’s.”
Over two centuries later, on the day Pope John XXIII beatified her in 1963, he stated, “In a house that was very small, but with ample space for charity, she sowed a seed in America which by Divine Grace grew into a large tree.” And that has been her legacy. The schools St. Seton founded now have branches across the nation and internationally. Moreover, six separate religious congregations trace their roots to the beginnings of the Sisters of Charity. Her life and work have made a positive difference in the world far beyond her mere 46 years on this earth.
Today, St. Seton is venerated as the patron saint of Catholic Schools; seafarers; widows; Shreveport, Louisiana; and the State of Maryland.