Canonized in 1975, St. Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton (1774-1821) was the first American-born saint. An Episcopalian convert to Catholicism, Elizabeth is credited with founding the American parochial school system and America's first religious order. Today, the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary stands on the site of her family home in Lower Manhattan, New York City.
History of Shrine of St. Elizabeth Seton
Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton was born in New York City in 1774 into a wealthy Epicopalian family. Her father was the health officer of the Port of New York and professor of anatomy at what became Columbia University.
In 1794, Elizabeth married the aristocratic shipping merchant William Seton; the young couple moved into a house at 8 State Street. Shortly thereafter, William tragically fell ill and lost his fortune. The Setons went to Italy in hopes that he would recover, staying with the family of a business partner of Mr. Seton.
William died in Italy in 1803, leaving Elizabeth penniless with five children. The young widow returned to New York City, moved by the care that she and her husband had received from Catholics in Italy.
While struggling to support herself and her five children, she investigated the Catholic faith. In 1805, Elizabeth shocked her Episcopalian relatives and friends by converting to Catholicism.
Soon Elizabeth moved to Baltimore, where she devoted her life to the care of others. She opened Saint Joseph's Academy and Free School, which is regarded as the beginning of America's parochial school system, as well as America's first religious order, the Sisters of Charity.
In 1817, Mother Seton sent three Sisters of Charity to New York to open an orphanage. Sisters of Charity still serve in New York schools and orphanages. At a meeting in 1852, Archbishop Kenrick declared, "Elizabeth Seton did more for the church in America than all of us bishops together." Elizabeth was canonized in 1975, becoming the first American-born saint in history.
In recent history, the work of St. Elizabeth inspired the foundation of Seton Bridge, which seeks "to bridge, as Catholics, the financial world, the ecumenical world, the civic world, and the world of commuting and touring members of the Church." The Seton Shrine also played a major role in the recovery after September 11, 2001: for seven Sundays, Our Lady of the Rosary hosted the church services of Trinity Episcopal Church, and it also held the memorials for the British and Canadian citizens who died in the attack.
What to See at Shrine of St. Elizabeth Seton
Today, the Church of Our Lady of the Rosary stands on the site of the home on 8 State Street that Elizabeth once shared with her husband William and their children. The church is named for the Mission of Our Lady of the Rosary, which is unrelated to St. Elizabeth Seton but very much in accord with her spirit of charity. Founded in 1883, the mission helped over 100,000 Irish young women find shelter and employment and reconnect with relatives already in America.
The building at 7 State Street serves as the rectory of the Shrine of St. Elizabeth. Completed in 1793, it is one of the oldest buildings in Manhattan and is the only survivor of New York's first era of great mansions. Its lovely facade has late-Georgian detailing, oval windows in the west wall, and a graceful wooden portico that follows the curve of the street. The tapered Ionic columns are said to be from ships' masts.
Quick Facts on Shrine of St. Elizabeth Seton
|Names:||Shrine of St. Elizabeth Seton|
|Dedication:||St. Elizabeth Seton|
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||40.702511° N, 74.013788° W|
|Address:||8 State Street|
New York City, New York
|Lodging:||View hotels near Shrine of St. Elizabeth Seton|
- Edward F. Bergman, The Spiritual Traveler: New York City (HiddenSpring, 2001), 81-82.
- Seton Shrine - official website
Map of Shrine of St. Elizabeth Seton, New York City
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