Katie Faley: Walking in the footsteps of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton on Mother’s Day

Elizabeth Ann Seton was a wife and mother who was widowed at the age of 29 in 1803. Despite great hardships, she went on to do amazing work, and eventually became the first American-born saint in 1975. (Photo from setonshrine.org)

Cause of Our Joy / Katie Faley

Have you ever had a saint follow you around? As if popping up in the most unexpected places throughout your life to say, “I’m praying for you!” That has been St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in my life.

Four years ago, after being accepted into graduate school, I was awaiting word about which parish I would be assigned to work at for two years. For no explainable reason, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton popped into my head. I simply asked her to pray for me.

Two days later I found out I had been placed at St. Elizabeth Seton Parish. It felt like a little nod from a saint who quickly became a best friend in heaven to me.

This Mother’s Day, I spent the day in Emmitsburg, Maryland, touring the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton in person.

THE STORY OF ST. ELIZABETH ANN SETON

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was born in New York in 1774. She was raised among the upper-crust New York social scene, rubbing elbows with Alexander Hamilton and George Washington. She married a merchant named William, and together they had five children. But tragedy struck when William died just 10 years later, leaving Elizabeth a widow with five young children.

Elizabeth — raised a faithful Episcopalian — found herself inexplicably drawn to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament at the Catholic parish across the street from her Episcopal church. She couldn’t imagine a reality in which Jesus gave His life for us and left us with anything less than the fullness of His true Body and Blood in the Eucharist. After much deliberation and agonizing, Elizabeth decided to trust God and take the leap to convert to Catholicism.

Having to now support her children entirely on her own, Elizabeth decided to lace up her proverbial boots and get to work. She moved to the countryside of Maryland to open a school. In response to God’s promptings, she founded a community of women religious, making her a spiritual mother to many daughters.

She had a very practical approach to life. She was not afraid of hard work. She was constantly caring for others. She loved to laugh at the silliness of life. She experienced many of the same daily situations we find ourselves in these days. She trusted God and always just did the next right thing according to His will.

INFLUENCE OF MOTHERS, NATURAL AND SPIRITUAL

As I found myself walking on the hallowed grounds where, just over 200 years ago, Mother Seton walked, prayed, served, laughed, and loved, I couldn’t help but notice how poignant it was that I should be here on Mother’s Day.

It is clear to me now that St. Elizabeth Ann Seton has been following me around a lot longer than I ever realized. I see her example through my own mom and the many moms who have influenced my faith since I was little.

Mother Seton reminds me of my own mother. My mom is one of the hardest workers I know. She is resilient. She values Catholic education. We laugh together at the silliness of life. She is defined by her role as a mother and as someone who cares unconditionally about and for others. By all accounts, she receives her badge of sainthood through the ordinary tasks of daily life.

Because of my own mother, and other women who have been like mothers to me, I was afforded an education rooted in the Catholic faith starting in preschool at St. Mark School in Peoria, where my mom continues to pass on the Catholic faith to a new generation of children — just like Mother Seton.

It is clear to me now that St. Elizabeth Ann Seton has been following me around a lot longer than I ever realized. I see her example through my own mom and the many moms who have influenced my faith since I was little. It is because Elizabeth Seton said “yes” to the motherhood to which she was called, the “yeses” of many other mothers, including my own mother, and the “yes” that Mary gave to God to become the Mother of His Son, that I, and I imagine many others, can attribute the roots of faith. There are countless things for which I am grateful in having received a Catholic formation, and it is all thanks to some very strong mothers.

I see St. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s nod to me in all of the resilient, influential, hard-working, and essential mothers in my life. Thank you to all the mothers, natural and spiritual. Your prayers and works have impacted everyone in more ways than you will ever know.

Katie Faley

Katie Faley is a member of St. Mark Parish in Peoria and digital marketing coordinator for the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton. She has a master’s degree in theology and theological studies from the University of Notre Dame. Write to her at katiefaleywriter@gmail.com.

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