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St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

Founded the first free Catholic school for girls in the United States

Feast Day: Jan. 4

Claim to fame: Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton was the first native-born North American to be canonized. A convert, she founded the first religious community of women in the United States (the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph), the first free Catholic school for girls in the United States, and also the first Catholic hospital and orphanage in the United States.

Little-known fact: When Elizabeth, who had been brought up in a prominent Episcopalian family in New York, converted to Catholicism, she faced religious prejudice not only from Protestants in the community, but also from her own family. They were afraid she would influence others in the family to become Catholic.They were right! Her sisters-in-law Cecilia and Harriet converted.

What made her a saint: Elizabeth overcame many obstacles with unwavering faith. Widowed at 29, with five small children, she trusted in God to show her the divine plan for her life, even though she didn’t always know what it was. Unable to succeed in her native New York, she founded her mission in Maryland, a state friendly to Catholics. There, she was able to start a Catholic school and a women’s religious order. In her short life, she led her community into many paths of religious service that still exist today, including schools, hospitals and social justice to the poor, who were Jesus personified. She had a strong devotion to the Eucharist, which she shared with others through her writings and her example.

Best quote: “Faith lifts the staggering soul on one side, hope supports it on the other, experience says it must be, and love says let it be.”

How did she die? St. Elizabeth Ann Seton died of tuberculosis at the age of 46.

Prayer: Loving God, you graced Elizabeth Ann Seton, enabling her to be a good wife, mother, teacher, and foundress, so that she might give her life in ministry to others. May her example inspire us to be compassionate and selfless in our love for you and for one another. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son. Amen.