Born in New York City in 1774, she grew up in a well-to-do family, married a wealthy young New York shipping merchant, raised five children, enjoyed a privileged social life, and devoted much of her time to several charitable activities.
In 1803 her husband’s business went bankrupt and he had come down with Tuberculosis – shortly after moving the family to Italy in search of treatment, her husband died. While awaiting their return to America, Mrs. Seton stayed with an Italian family, and developed an interest in their Catholic religion.
Elizabeth returned to New York City with little money. She soon decided to become a Catholic, which made he life even harder, since at that time Catholics suffered great prejudice, and she was abandoned by her family and friends. She struggled to support her family.
A rector in Baltimore, MD heard of her plight and invited her to establish a school for girls there. in 1808 Elizabeth embarked on a remarkable new life. Settling in Baltimore, she started the Paca Street school, the country’s first Catholic elementary school. A year later she founded the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph’s . a religious community of women devoted to teaching and serving the poor. As the community grew, it opened schools and orphanages in New York city and Philadelphia.
Elizabeth Ann Seton died on January 4th, 1821 of tuberculosis (just as her husband had). By then the Sisters of Charity were spreading across the country. Today, Seton’s legacy includes thousands of sisters who work in hundreds of schools, hospitals, and social service centers throughout the world. in 1975 the Roman Catholic Church declared Elizabeth Ann Seton a saint.
As a pre-condition for canonization (sainthood), the Catholic Church requires a saint who has not been martyred to have performed at least two miracles. The Holy See recognised that this pre-condition was met by attributing three miracles to Elizabeth: Curing Sister Gertrude Korzendorfer of cancer, curing Ann Theresa O’Neill of acute lymphatic leukemia, and curing Carl Kalin of encephalitis.
Source: Wikipedia entry on Elizabeth Ann Seton
Source: Website for the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton
Source: The American Patriot’s Almanac, by Bennett and Cribbs