“The gate of heaven is very low; only the humble can enter it.”
Saint Elizabeth Ann Bayley was born on August 28th, 1774 in New York City. She was born into a prominent Episcopal family and tragically lost her mother at the young age of only three years old. When she turned 19 in 1794, she married William Magee Seton and had five children. Tragedy struck again in 1803 when William died of Tuberculosis. She began an interest in Catholicism soon after and after a trip to Italy, entered into the Roman Catholic Church in 1805.
In 1809, Saint Elizabeth travelled to Emmitsburg Maryland and founded the Sisters of Charity of Saint Joseph's which was the very first community for religious women established in the United States. On July 31st, the date of the founding of this organization, she also founded the first free Catholic school in America, marking the start of the Catholic parochial school system in the United States. She was immediately known from then on as Mother Seton and the organization adopted the rules of the Daughters of Charity in 1811.
Saint Elizabeth died on January 4th, 1821 at the age of 46. Her remains are entombed in the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Just 9 years later, in 1830, the Sisters of the group she formed were running orphanages and schools as far west as Cincinnati and New Orleans - they had established the very first hospital west of the Mississippi in Saint Louis. Today numerous colleges and hospitals can trace their roots back to Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton.
On March 17th, 1963, Saint Elizabeth was beatified by Pope John XXIII saying:
"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."
On September 14th, 1975, Pope Paul VI canonized her in Saint Peter's Square saying:
"Elizabeth Ann Seton is a saint. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton is an American. All of us say this with special joy, and with the intention of honoring the land and the nation from which she sprang forth as the first flower in the calendar of the saints. Elizabeth Ann Seton was wholly American! Rejoice for your glorious daughter. Be proud of her. And know how to preserve her fruitful heritage."
Today, her feast day is celebrated on January 4th, the day of her death. She was the first American-Born saint in the Catholic Church.