MY SOUL LONGS FOR
YOU, O GOD (Ps 42:2)
THE HUMAN QUEST FOR GOD
—CCC, NOS. 27-43
ONE WOMAN’S QUEST
Elizabeth Bayley came from a wealthy, Episcopalian, New York family. Born
in 1774, two years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence,
she came into a world of conflicting loyalties—royalists and revolutionaries.
Her father threw in his lot with the American Revolution.
At sixteen, Elizabeth fell in love with William Magee Seton, a
wealthy businessman. Three years later, in early 1794, she married
William and in time gave birth to three girls and two boys. The couple
was married for only a few years before a series of problems began
to affect the family. By 1801, William’s business had failed and so had
William and Elizabeth accepted an offer from the Fillichi family of
Livorno, Italy, to come there to help William recover. However, shortly after
arriving in Italy in late 1803 with his wife and eldest daughter, William died.
The Fillichis comforted the widow and child and impressed them both
with their strong Catholic faith. While in Italy, Elizabeth spent much time
visiting various Catholic churches and spending time in them praying in
front of the Blessed Sacrament.
After about six months, Elizabeth returned to New York, where she was
reunited with her other children, and she decided to become a Catholic.
A year later, she was received into full communion with the Catholic
Church on March 4, 1805, by Fr. Matthew O’Brien, pastor of St. Peter’s
Church in lower Manhattan. Her family and friends abandoned her, but
Antonio Fillichi—who was in New York at this time—supported her.