Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton was the first person born in the United States to be made a saint by the Catholic Church. She was born two years before the American Revolution, to an upper-class family in New York society.
Elizabeth’s early life was quiet, simple, often lonely. As she grew up she spent more and more of her time reading the Bible.
In 1794 she married William Seton. She was very much in love and happy. In the next four years, Williams’s father died. The young couple was left in charge of Williams’s seven half brothers and sisters and the family business.
The business did not do well and closed. William became ill with tuberculosis. They went to Italy for help with the business, but William died there. Elizabeth’s concern for the spiritual well-being of her family led her to the Catholic Church. Elizabeth’s friends in Italy taught her the Catholic faith.
Elizabeth’s own mother had died when she was three. She felt like Mary was truly her mother. She officially joined the Church in 1805.
Because she joined the Church, her father was upset. Also, she was not welcome many places, she had been before. In 1806, Elizabeth’s sister-in-law, Cecilia Seton became ill and begged to see Elizabeth. Elizabeth began to regularly visit Cecilia. Cecilia told Elizabeth she wanted to become Catholic. When Cecilia’s decision became known, threats were made against Elizabeth to have her expelled from the state of New York.
A priest from Baltimore met her in New York and talked to her about starting a school in Maryland. So Elizabeth and two other young women established the first free Catholic school in the United States. The small community made allowances for Elizabeth to continue raising her children. On March 25, 1809, Elizabeth became a sister, in the Sisters of Charity in the United States, and was called Mother Seton. By 1818, the sisters had begun two orphanages and another school. She died at the age of 46 in 1821. She was made a saint by Pope Paul VI in 1975. She is the patron saint against in-law problems, against the death of children, and against the death of parents.