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2 • Part I. The Creed: The Faith Professed

Now she needed to make a living and support her family. She wanted

to open a school. She received an invitation from Bishop John Carroll to

start a school for girls near St. Mary’s Seminary on Paca Street in Baltimore.

This became the groundwork of a career that would lead her to become

the foundress of the American Sisters of Charity and that would lay the

basis for the United States Catholic school system. She provided free edu-

cation for the poor while also accepting tuition from those who could

afford it.

Cecilia O’Conway of Philadelphia joined her effort. They discussed

starting a religious congregation to ensure the future of their ministry.

Bishop Carroll supported the idea. In a short time, their dream became a

reality. Property was purchased at Emmitsburg, Maryland. Other women

joined Elizabeth and Cecilia, and together they formed the nucleus of

the new community. Mother Seton—as she was now known—founded

orphanages in Philadelphia and New York. Her successors went on to

establish a stunning array of charitable services.

Mother Seton did not neglect her own children. Her daughters were

educated in her school. Her sons received their schooling at Georgetown

College. She encouraged her son William to become a banker. Instead,

he chose to be a merchant seaman. Eventually he settled down, married,

and had two sons, one of whom became an archbishop.

Elizabeth Ann Seton died in 1821 at the age of forty-six, and she was

canonized in 1975 as the first native-born North American saint. Her feast

day is celebrated on January 4.

St. Elizabeth Seton and her journey of faith point to the reality that in all

of us there is a longing to know God and to draw closer to him. The story of

how she responded to that longing is a suitable introduction to our open-

ing lesson on the human longing and capacity for God.


The desire for God is written in the human heart,

because man is created by God and for God.

—CCC, no. 27