EMMITSBURG, MD (Sept. 22, 2023) – The National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton opened a $4 million museum and visitor center in a ceremony of Catholic pomp and circumstance that recognized the life and legacy of the first native-born American to be canonized.
To commemorate the opening of the museum, the Seton Shrine hosted a Mass in its historic Basilica that was celebrated by Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori, as well as a blessing and ribbon-cutting.
“Like so many of you, my life has been greatly enriched by St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and her Sisters,” said Luci Baines Johnson, chair of the Shrine’s National Leaders Council, which led the capital campaign that funded the new museum. “This museum will allow others to know Mother Seton and fully realize her impact on the world, which is as relevant today as it was 200 years ago.”
The modernized museum uses rarely seen artifacts and state-of-the-art, interactive experiences to tell the story of Elizabeth Ann Seton, who opened one of the first free Catholic schools for girls in the United States and established the first order of women religious in the country – the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph’s – on the very grounds where her Shrine and the new museum now rest.
What was formerly the provincial entrance near the Basilica has been transformed into a modern and welcoming visitor center, seamlessly connecting visitors to the gift shop and museum galleries. Inside, the galleries paint an intimate portrait of Mother Seton through dozens of artifacts, visual storytelling displays and digital interactive exhibits.
The museum is comprised of three core galleries:
- The SEEKER exhibit delves into Mother Seton’s troubled childhood, fairytale marriage, bankruptcy, widowhood and conversion to Catholicism.
- The SERVANT exhibit explores how Mother Seton founded a new community of consecrated religious and pioneered a way for women in America to serve God.
- The SAINT exhibit provides insights into the dedicated efforts of thousands of Americans across four generations for Mother Seton to be declared a saint.
“The grand opening of our new museum and visitor center is a historic occasion for the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton and all who find inspiration in her remarkable journey,” said Rob Judge, executive director of the Shrine. “This museum not only enriches the Seton Shrine but also ensures that Mother Seton’s enduring legacy continues to touch the hearts and souls of the thousands who pilgrimage to our sacred grounds. It is a testament to our commitment to preserving her story for generations to come and our desire to foster a connection that transcends time.”
Earlier in the day, at a luncheon for more than 200 guests, the Shrine presented its Setonian Award to The Tersigni Family Foundation whose leadership challenge grant helped launch the $10 million capital campaign that funded the construction of the museum, along with other projects at the Shrine.
Ascension, one of the nation’s largest Catholic nonprofit health care systems, was the capital campaign’s lead donor, and CEO Joseph R. Impicciche said during the dedication, “The Daughters of Charity have always been very special to me, and I’ve learned so much over the years from their humility and unwavering commitment to the poor and underserved. Every day I feel their influence.”
Sister Donna Geernaert, SC, Board Chair of the Seton Shrine, added: “This new museum honors one of the seminal figures in the history of the Catholic Church in America, now and for generations to come. The story of her struggles and joys is just as relevant for people today as it was 200 years ago. She’s a great role model for all women.”
In addition to the permanent exhibits, the museum also debuted two special exhibits that will be on display for a limited time. The first is “Fancywork: Early American Needlework from St. Joseph’s Academy and Free School,” an exhibit with more than 20 pieces of needlework dating from the early 1800s to the 1870s and the stories of the students behind the works. The second is “Getting in the Habit: Iconic Clothing of the Daughters of Charity,” which displays dozens of historic artifacts that explore the ranging apparel of The Daughters of Charity throughout the years, Exhibited by the Daughter of Charity Province of St. Louise, Provincial Archives.
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For more information about the new Seton Shrine Museum and Visitor center, please visit https://setonshrine.org/museum/.
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/.