A rich New Yorker becomes the nation’s first saint

Born into a prominent Episcopalian family at 8 State Street in 1774, Elizabeth Ann Bayley had lots of material comforts.

Yet she was a spiritual child, and very aware of the city’s impoverished.

She brought food to the poor and visited the sick, continuing to do so after she married and moved to Wall Street.

“The poverty and destitution of New York worried the sensitive girl, who, with her sister-in-law, daily journeyed to homes where help was needed, and where they came to be known as the Protestant sisters of charity,” explains a 1931 New York Times article.

In 1802, she sailed to Italy, where she was introduced to Catholicism—and where her businessman husband, William Seton, died.

Back in New York and struggling financially with five children, she found solace in the church—converting to Catholicism in 1805 at the city’s only Catholic church at the time, St. Peter’s on Barclay Street.

“The last 16 years of her life was given over to good works,” said the Times.

She founded the Sisters of Charity, opening the first Catholic schools and orphanages in the U.S. in New York, Philadelphia, and Maryland.

She died of tuberculosis at 46 in 1821. Pope Paul IV canonized her in 1975—the first U.S.-born saint.

Though her remains are entombed in a shrine in Maryland, a shrine in her name exists at 7 State Street (above), next door to her childhood home.

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3 Responses to “A rich New Yorker becomes the nation’s first saint”

  1. petey Says:

    my grammar school teachers were S.C., and i’ve been in that shrine, but many years ago.

  2. The last house left on State Street’s mansion row | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] not a house these days but a shrine to Elizabeth Seton, the first saint born in America and a former resident of State Street. Seton lived on the other […]

  3. What a tourist saw on a trip to New York in 1970 | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] photo appears to be taken from Battery Park and looks toward State Street; that must be the Elizabeth Ann Seton shrine and James Watson House in the […]

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