|April 7, 2014 • VOL. 52, NO. 7 • Oakland, CA|
Holy Week & Easter Liturgies
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton's Lenten message
The Church has recognized the shining example of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, who exemplified the human quest for God and our yearning for union with Him in holiness.
Before a year lapsed Elizabeth returned to New York and was reunited with her other children. Then she decided to become a Catholic, and Father Matthew O'Brien, pastor of St. Peter's Church in lower Manhattan, received her into full communion with the Catholic Church. Sadly her family and friends abandoned her; but Antonio Fillichi, who was in New York at this time, encouraged her.
Now Elizabeth needed to earn a living to support her family. She was interested in opening a school. Bishop John Carroll invited her to open a school for girls near St. Mary's Seminary on Paca Street in Baltimore. This became the springboard for her to become the foundress of the American Sisters of Charity and to lay the foundation for the United States' Catholic school system. While accepting tuition from those who could afford payment, she provided free education for the poor.
Cecilia O'Conway of Philadelphia teamed with her to begin a new religious congregation to continue this special ministry, and they established a motherhouse at Emmitsburg, Maryland.
In the midst of this venture Mother Seton also provided for the education of her own children. Her daughters were educated in her school, and her sons at Georgetown College. One of her grandsons became an archbishop.
Elizabeth Ann Seton died in 1821 at the age of 46. In 1975 she was canonized by Pope Paul VI as the first native-born saint of North America. Her feast is celebrated on Jan. 4.
This Lent Pope Francis calls us to renew and deepen our faith, and to recall the universal desire for God and call to holiness. The life of St. Elizabeth Seton reminds us that in all of us there is a longing to know God and to draw closer to him. She is an example of how to respond to the human longing and capacity for God. The desire for God is written in the human heart, because we are created by God and for God.
(Marianist Brother John Samaha is a retired religious educator who worked for many years in the catechetical department of the Oakland diocese. He now resides in Cupertino.)
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