[This is a series of biographical sketches of Anglican men and women whose lives have been exemplary in virtue and/or have made significant contributions to Anglicanism’s expression of the Gospel. Written from the perspective of full communion with the See of St. Peter, including such papal statements as St. John Paul II’s encyclical on ecumenism, Ut Unum Sint, this series will occasionally acknowledge differences between Anglicans and Catholics where they exist and will do so in a spirit of charity and respect. However, the intent is to focus less on differences than on opportunities for mutual enrichment between the Anglican and Catholic traditions and on shared spiritual treasures that already unite us.]
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, S.C.
Born 28 August 1774 (New York City) – Died 4 January 1821 (Emmitsburg, Maryland)
Foundress of the first American congregation of religious sisters, the Sisters of Charity. Canonized 14 September 1975.
[The image is an icon of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton by Theophilia.]
I am reluctant to include St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in this series of Anglican Notables because there is little indication (of which I am aware, at any rate) that her upbringing as an Episcopalian had a significant effect on her life as a Catholic and as the foundress of the first Catholic girls’ school in the United States and of the first American congregation of religious sisters. This is not to ignore the fact that her upbringing as an Episcopalian instilled in her a strong Christian faith well before she entered into full communion with Rome. But if she cherished, after becoming Catholic, what we might now call the ethos and spirituality of the Anglican patrimony, I am not aware of her having left any significant record of this.
Perhaps, then, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton serves as a reminder that not every Anglican/Episcopalian who enters into full communion with Rome has to do so through the Ordinariates. This is also a reminder that though the mission of the Ordinariates is evangelization, that is because this is the mission of every Christian, which does not therefore distinguish the Ordinariates from any other Christian group. Rather, the Ordinariates are meant to evangelize in the context of the Anglican patrimony and for those who cherish that patrimony.
But apart from all of that, back to Elizabeth Ann Seton and the Episcopal Church of the United States. The following photo is of the house on Paca Street, Baltimore, where Seton made first profession of vows as a Sister of Charity and opened a boarding school for girls. (More information about the house can be found here.)
This house is a couple of blocks south of Mount Calvary Catholic Church, which was founded as an Episcopal parish in 1842 in line with the Oxford Movement. Like Mother Seton, Mount Calvary entered into full communion with Rome. This took place in 2012.
Brother John-Bede Pauley, O.S.B.