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1975

American canonized as saint

Elizabeth Ann Seton is canonized by Pope Paul VI at the Vatican in Rome, becoming the first American-born Catholic saint.

Born in New York City in 1774, Elizabeth Bayley was the daughter of an Episcopalian physician. She devoted much of her time to charity work with the poor and in 1797 founded the Society for the Relief of Poor Widows with Small Children in New York. She married William Seton, and in 1803 she traveled with him to Italy, where she was exposed to the Roman Catholic Church. After she herself was widowed and left with five children in 1803, she converted to Catholicism and in 1808 went to Baltimore to establish a Catholic school for girls.

In 1809, she founded the United States’ first religious order, the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph. A few months later, Mother Seton and the sisters of the order moved to a poor parish where they provided free education to poor children. Mother Seton’s order grew rapidly, and she continued to teach until her death in 1821. In 1856, Seton Hall University was named for her. She was canonized in 1975.

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