Press Release: National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Debuts Series of Reflections Addressing the Mental Health Crisis Among Youth - Seton Shrine

Press Release: National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Debuts Series of Reflections Addressing the Mental Health Crisis Among Youth

Through personal experiences and stories from the life of America’s first native-born saint, spiritual writer Paula Huston tackles issues of isolation, depression and hopelessness afflicting youth

EMMITSBURG, MD (April 4, 2024) – The National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Seton is launching a series of Easter reflections by renowned spiritual writer Paula Huston that addresses the emotional, psychological and social challenges that young people face today and explores the spiritual wisdom that the first native-born American saint offers them.

The series, “Into God’s Light with Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton,” will begin on Saturday, April 6, for the Divine Mercy feast day and run each week through Pentecost, on May 19. Each reflection will be posted on a special section on the Shrine’s website and be available through email.

The effort is part of the Shrine’s mission of using the life and spirituality of Mother Seton as a guide for people today to navigate the issues in their lives. This is especially critical for young people who are experiencing record levels of depression and suicide, often exacerbated by a loss of religious identity. Data released last year by the Centers for Disease Control showed that 44% of teens in the U.S. reported feelings of persistent sadness and hopelessness, up from 37% in 2019.

Catholic leaders, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Robert Barron and Fr. Roger Landry have called attention to this mental health crisis in recent months.

“The problems our young people are experiencing cry out for a compassionate response,” said Rob Judge, executive director of the Shrine. “Mother Seton struggled her entire life with deep disappointments and sadness and was forced to deal with many trials and obstacles.

“Through all of this, she never lost confidence in the healing power of God’s love. We hope that through these reflections, we can help provide young people with the spiritual tools and comfort and inspiration they need.”

In the series, Huston offers anecdotes from her own life and that of Mother Seton, relating them to the seven spiritual wounds of confusion, fear, rejection, abandonment, shame, hopelessness and powerlessness.

Paula HustonHuston is a National Endowment of the Arts Fellow and the author of two novels and eight books of spiritual nonfiction. Her essays and short stories have appeared in Best American Short Stories and in the annual Best Spiritual Writing anthology. Like Mother Seton, Huston is a convert to Catholicism. In 1999, she became a Camaldolese Benedictine Oblate and is a lay member of New Camaldoli Hermitage’s community of monks in Big Sur, Calif. She’s also a former president of the Chrysostom Society, a national organization of literary Catholic writers.

“I was interested in exploring how Elizabeth Seton’s absolute trust in God’s will for her life and her spiritual resilience helped her overcome so many hardships on her journey to sainthood,” Huston said. “She offers us a love story that our young people – and those who care for them – need to hear.”

Here is an excerpt from Huston’s reflection on Powerlessness:

“I am seventeen, living for the summer in a mountain village in Honduras… Sue and I are high school volunteers, here to give inoculations for childhood diseases—measles, mumps, whooping cough, smallpox.  We are excited but also filled with dread. Among these hard-working Central American subsistence farmers, we cannot help but stand out—two idealistic “gringitas” who think they can save the world.

One morning a woman appears at our door… The mother murmurs that her baby needs help.  Dehydrated by relentless dysentery, the child is also clearly starving to death. Sue and I decide to employ one of the desperation measures we were shown during training: a dropperful of warm sugar water between the baby’s lips every fifteen minutes… 

That night as I lie awake on my aluminum cot in this silent adobe clinic thousands of miles from home, I feel something inside me starting to die. By morning, I realize what has happened: I no longer believe in God… With this awful thought comes an image of myself, all alone in a small boat in the middle of a vast ocean, completely powerless to change a thing…

Elizabeth Seton understood what it is like to feel powerlessness.  She is twenty-eight and the mother of five small children when she sails with her desperately ill husband and their eight-year-old daughter to Italy.  She hopes that there, in the warm Italian climate, he can find relief for his advanced tuberculosis.  Yet there is no relief to be had; with fears of yellow fever running rampant, the coughing, shaking William is immediately red-flagged and the little family is hustled off to a lazaretto—an old stone fortress facing the sea, where sick arrivals are sent for thirty days before being allowed to enter the country. 

Imprisoned in this bare room with nothing but three mattresses on the floor, Elizabeth quickly realizes that William will not survive…

Though the cold reality of their circumstances has almost completely stripped Elizabeth of her sense of agency, she can still make a critical choice.  She can collapse into despairing resignation, or she can do her best to withstand the terrible circumstances in which she finds herself.“

For more information about the Shrine, please visit

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

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