St Elizabeth Ann Seton – 04 January
Born into a wealthy and influential Episcopalian family, the daughter of a Dr Richard Bayley; Elizabeth was raised in the New York high society of the late 18th century. Her mother died when Elizabeth was three years old, her baby sister a year later. In 1794 at age 19 she married the wealthy businessman William Magee Seton, and was the mother of five.
About ten years into the marriage, William’s business failed, and soon after he died of tuberculosis, leaving Elizabeth an impoverished widow with five small children. For years Elizabeth had felt drawn to Catholicism, believing in the Real Presence in the Eucharist and in the lineage of the Church going back to Christ and the Apostles. She converted to Catholicism, entering the Church on 14 march 1805, alienating many of her strict Episcopalian family in the process.
To support her family, and insure the proper education of her children, she opened a school in Boston. Though a private and secular institution, from the beginning she ran it along the lines of a religious community. At the invitation of the archbishop, she established a Catholic girls’ school in Baltimore, Maryland which initiated the parochial school system in America. To run the system she founded the Sisters of Charity in 1809, the first native American religious community for women.