EMMITSBURG, MD (June 24, 2021) – In what promises to be one of the biggest Catholic cultural events of the summer, “Seton Family Treasures,” a collection of rarely seen artifacts from the life of America’s first native-born saint will open July 1, at the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton.
Mother Seton was a rare Catholic saint with real-life experiences that people can identify with today. The Seton artifacts at the Shrine, the largest display in the world, will provide a window into the day-to-day world of early 19thcentury America and Catholicism – the world of this distinctive American saint.
“Mother Seton knew what it was to be a wife and mother, convert and teacher, foundress and servant of the poor,” said Rob Judge, executive director of the Shrine in Emmitsburg, Md. “When visitors see these artifacts, they will be taken back in time, while being made mindful of their own experiences and struggles that often mirror those of America’s saint.”
“Seton Family Treasures” will debut the morning of July 1 with a unique virtual tour of the exhibit, led by historian Catherine O’Donnell, whose book “Elizabeth Seton America’s Saint” is the definitive historical account of Seton’s life. During this livestreamed event, O’Donnell will walk viewers through the exhibit and relate stories that bring the artifacts to life. “Seton Family Treasures: A First Look with Biographer Catherine O’Donnell” will be available from the Seton Shrine on Facebook Live at 9:30 a.m. (EDT).
The exhibit in the museum at the Shrine will open its doors to the public at noon. Both the exhibit and the virtual event are free. In addition, a special mass, “Pray for America with Mother Seton,” will be said on Sunday, July 4, at 11 a.m. in honor of the saint and the opening of the exhibit.
Artifacts in the “Seton Family Treasures” collection include:
- Mother Seton’s iconic bonnet that she wore as foundress of the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph’s in Emmitsburg, the nation’s first order of religious sisters.
- The Commonplace Book that her daughter Catherine used while she was a student at St. Joseph’s Academy – Mother Seton’s school.
- Mother Seton’s copy of the “Introduction to the Devout Life, the spiritual classic by St. Francis DeSales,” that was very formative for Mother Seton in the years before and after her conversion. The volume on display is an edition in French that was given to Mother Seton by the Filicchi family, who accompanied her during her conversion.
- Her father, Dr. Bayley’s, Yellow Fever Logbook from his days as a medical pioneer working in the quarantine on Staten Island.
- Her miniature wedding portraits and brooch.
- Her rosary and crucifix.
- Her daughter’s christening gown.
These artifacts and many more were donated from a number of sources, including the Sisters of Charity of New York; the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati and the Daughters of Charity, each of whom trace their roots to Mother Seton. Nearby Mount St. Mary’s University also contributed to the exhibit, which joins an already extensive collection of Seton artifacts at the Shrine’s museum.
“Nowhere else can you see in such vivid detail the ordinary things in this saint’s extraordinary life,” Judge said. “These artifacts and the stories behind them will allow visitors to get closer to the life of this extraordinary saint and give hope and inspiration to people from all walks of life.”
The Seton Family Treasures exhibit is a central focus of a year-long commemoration of the 200th anniversary of Mother Seton’s death and will eventually be a major part of a modernized and expanded museum at the Shrine. The Shrine also recently began “Seeker to Saint,” a series of short videos that examine various aspects of her life.
Mother Seton was an Episcopalian socialite, wife and mother of five children in New York City when she lost her husband to tuberculosis during a trip to Italy where he was trying to save his 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.
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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