Elizabeth Seton was born into the Bayley family in 1774, just two years before the American Revolution. She grew up in affluence among the socialites of New York City. Her mother was the daughter of an Episcopalian Rector and she died when Elizabeth was a youngster of three. Her father was a doctor and professor, and he saw to the education of the young girl. At the age of 19 she married Will Seton, and together they had five children. Along with her duties as a wife and mother, she cared for the poor and with some friends founded the Society for the Relief of Poor Widows with Small Children, and was affectionately known as the “Protestant Sister of Charity.” Even though she lived in affluence, her life was not without suffering, for two of her children died of tuberculosis, and her son died while in the navy.
Her comfortable life quickly came to an end when her father-in-law died and she had to take over the raising of her husband’s seven siblings. Her husband assumed the running of the business his father had built, and it had a devastating effect on his health. The business failed and he filed for bankruptcy. He took Elizabeth and one of their daughters to Italy in search of a cure but died while there after being quarantined for weeks in a drafty house. Elizabeth, just 29 years old, remained there with her daughter and it was there that she was attracted to the Roman Catholic Faith. (Excerpts from Elizabeth Bayley Seton Papers courtesy of Archives Saint Joseph's Provincial House, Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, Emmitsburg, Maryland).
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