Elizabeth Seton: American Saint by Catherine O’Donnell


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Elizabeth Ann Seton, canonized by Pope Paul VI in 1975, is the first native-born American saint in the Roman Catholic Church. Author Catherine O’Donnell offers this exceptional biography of Seton utilizing the newest resources available.  O’Donnell draws on a wealth of materials from archives in the United States and Europe. These include Seton’s own diary; the correspondence, spiritual reflections, copybooks, and letters of her contemporary Sisters; as well as account books, architectural plans, discipline records, and the papers of priests and prelates.

Seton’s life is both representative and extraordinary. Through her experiences one can see the specific effects of revolution, early nation building, foreign war, and territorial and economic development. Her conversion marks her out as exceptional, and the opportunities for leadership and institution building afforded her by the Catholic Church are unique.  This much needed and long awaited biography is a compelling, well-written, and meticulously detailed account of the inspiring life of Elizabeth Ann Seton.  As a daughter, wife, mother, convert, widow, foundress, and teacher, Mother Seton is truly a saint for us all.  Having lived through times of epidemic, quarantine, war, upheaval, loss, and tragedy, Mother Seton is a true saint of our times.  This wonderful biography will touch and inspire readers as they journey through the life of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American born saint.


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“A masterful work of scholarship that is also a joy to read. Elizabeth Seton is a must-read for anyone interested in the saint herself, in the birth of the Catholic Church in America, or what it was like to be a woman in the early years of the country calling itself the United States of America. Between Catherine O’Donnell’s expressive and well-balanced writing, the voices of the various characters and the drama of Mother Seton’s own life, Elizabeth Seton reads almost like a novel…. Seen through the life of this one ordinary and yet extraordinary woman, sainthood has never seemed so attainable.”

The Catholic Register

“Most Americans (even Catholics) know little about [St. Elizabeth Seton], as general histories of the United States tend to neglect her entirely. Catherine O’Donnell’s superb new biography, a thorough account of Seton’s fascinating life and extraordinary achievements, remedies that oversight…. O’Donnell brings Seton vibrantly back to life…. There is a power to this book that will remain with readers long after they complete it, and I highly recommend it to people of all faiths.”

First Things

“From socialite to saint, it was an extraordinary journey for Seton, one gracefully chronicled in Catherine O’Donnell’s richly textured new biography…. A remarkable biography of a remarkable woman.”

Wall Street Journal

“Catherine O’Donnell’s Elizabeth Seton is a gift to students of U.S. history, U.S. Catholicism, and Setonian affiliates of every kind. This first critical biography of the first U.S.-born saint in nearly seventy years is painstakingly researched and remarkably well-written. With ample historian’s aplomb, O’Donnell weaves a compelling narrative that is easy to follow―indeed, a page-turner―and historically complex…. The book is a major achievement in the field. It deserves a wide readership and would be particularly appropriate for graduate courses in U.S. religion or U.S. Catholicism. The accessibility of O’Donnell’s prose would also make it a suitable addition to advanced undergraduate courses.”

Reading Religion

Additional information

Weight 2 lbs
Dimensions 9 × 6 × 1.5 in