EMMITSBURG, MD (September 14, 2021) –The National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton announced a $7 million capital fundraising campaign to evangelize and extend the mission of the Shrine and America’s first native-born saint to new audiences for years to come.
The “New Century of Charity” campaign, under the direction of the Shrine’s National Leaders Council, is part of a year-long commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the death of Mother Seton. The Shrine is located on the very land where she started her ministry in 1809 and includes the buildings she lived in and the chapel in which she prayed.
The Shrine attracts tens of thousands of pilgrims and visitors annually. Some come to partake of the sacraments in the Shrine’s Basilica. Others come for historical programs where they can walk in the footsteps of this American saint and still others come for prayer and reflection. This campaign, the first in the Shrine’s history, seeks to enhance those experiences for future generations.
The campaign has three main components:
- Grow the Seeds of Hope retreat program for the spiritual needs of people living in poverty.
- Modernize and enhance the Shrine’s Museum and Visitor Center to tell the story of Mother Seton and the order of sisters she created in inspiring and interactive ways.
- Create a Sustainability and Innovation Fund for the expansion of programs such as its Living History events, special exhibits, online digital content and other outreach activities.
“Looking back over these 200-plus years, those of us with a special devotion to Mother Seton have much to celebrate,” said Rob Judge, executive director of the Shrine. “This campaign, however, is about the days ahead and how we can share the story of Mother Seton and her sisters in new and innovative ways.”
“Mother Seton’s message of love, charity and healing is a powerful balm for the fractured world we live in, and it is fitting that we are announcing this campaign on the anniversary of her canonization in 1975. We take her mission of evangelizing very seriously at the Shrine and through the generous support of our donors we hope to continue that mission for decades to come.”
Luci Baines Johnson, chairwoman of the Shrine’s National Leadership Council and the daughter of President Lyndon Johnson said, “We are looking to the future – a bright future for the National Shrine of our beloved St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. My father raised me with the admonition, ‘to whom much is given, much more is expected.’ Supporting the Daughters of Charity in their mission to serve with the poor with whatever time, talent and treasure I possess has been my life’s mission and my greatest joy.”
“Now, in these trying times, people need Mother Seton and all that her Shrine represents more than ever before.”
Mother Seton was a 19th century innovator – whether it was in education, healthcare or religious life – and the Sisters and Daughters of Charity continue her mission around the country today.
“It began when Mother Seton first said yes to God,” said Sister Donna Geernaert, SC, a Sister of Charity – Halifax and Chair of the Shrine’s Board of Directors. “That led her to the Maryland countryside where she said yes to establishing a school and a community of women religious.”
“Now, we hope people will say yes to her so that her Shrine can continue her mission of caring for those on the margins and providing a respite for those who so desperately need it.”
A central part of the campaign is the expansion of the Seeds of Hope retreat program, which is an outgrowth of Pope Francis’ instruction to Shrines to open their doors wide to the sick, the disabled and the poor. Many ministries provide housing, food, clothing and health care, but few directly address the faith and spiritual needs of those experiencing poverty. Seeds of Hope directly addresses those needs.
The existing museum is a popular attraction for many of the people who visit the Shrine each year, giving them an opportunity through videos, artifacts and other materials to learn Mother Seton’s story and her relatability to their lives today.
Through the New Century of Charity campaign, a new museum will be designed to replace the one that has been there for nearly 40 years. The original majestic entrance to the provincial house will be reconfigured into a new visitor center that will become the gateway into the new museum, replete with state-of-the-art galleries featuring interactive exhibits which will share the story of Mother Seton from childhood to sainthood.
Mother Seton was an Episcopalian socialite, wife and mother of five in New York City when she lost her husband to tuberculosis during a trip to Italy where he was trying to save his bankrupt trading business. It was there that she began to consider converting to Catholicism, a step she eventually took despite immense family pressure to resist. Later, as a widow facing poverty, she moved to Emmitsburg, where she founded the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph’s and began a life of education and service to the poor.
As part of the 200th anniversary, the Shrine released “Seeker to Saint,” a video series about Mother Seton’s life. Also, the existing museum is currently hosting “Seton Family Treasures,” an exhibit of personal artifacts that includes her iconic bonnet. That exhibit runs through November.
For more information about the campaign, please visit https://setonshrine.org/200th-capital-campaign/
The National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton
The National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg, Md., is a place of God and of history, where visitors can walk in the footsteps of a saint. The Shrine offers pilgrims prayerful comfort from Mother Seton’s story and her intercessions as a friend in heaven. It is an active Basilica and has a wide range of historical buildings and programs that show what life was like when Mother Seton lived here more than 200 years ago. It was here that she founded the first community of religious women established in the U.S., created the first free Catholic school for girls staffed by sisters in the U.S. and fulfilled her mission of serving those in need. Today, her legacy includes several religious communities with thousands of sisters, who serve others through schools, social service centers and hospitals throughout the world. She was canonized in 1975. Her remains are entombed at the National Shrine that bears her name. For more information, please visit https://setonshrine.org/.
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