Thursday, January 5, 2017

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

     In my very first assignment as a priest, at Immaculate Conception parish in Irwin, I first encountered the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill who taught in the parish school.  They were one of the Communities of the Daughters of Charity of Mother Seton, and through them I came to know of this remarkable woman of grace.  In 1975 she was canonized and lifted to the altar as the first native born saint from the United States.  If my memory serves me, it was during my time at IC, before she was canonized, that we made a trip to Emmittsburg, Maryland to visit her shrine and the places held dear to her in her ministry.  I had the honor of celebrating liturgy at the side altar over her remains (the first time I celebrated with my back to the people ... I had to try and remember the rubrics).  I also acquired a relic of the soon to be saint at the shrine.

     In subsequent years I have been blessed to serve with many of her Sisters and to befriend the Sisters of Charity of Seton Hill.  And then, in October of 2008, I  was assigned as pastor of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in North Huntingdon, and installed as the fifth pastor on her feast day, January 4, 2009, which that year fell on the Feast of the Epiphany.  Our retired bishop, Lawrence Brandt, did the honors, and he and now Bishop Malesic supported me in my ministry here, for which I am grateful.  So this day is one of importance to me personally and to this parish which bears her name.   That is why I chose this day to formally submit my request to be considered this coming Summer for retirement from active ministry.  I will reach the age for early retirement at the end of May, and with the challenges to my mobility and having served as a priest for forty-four years, I know that it is time.  At least that is what part of me is saying ... the other part will miss ministry to God's People and celebrating the Eucharist in the parish.  So we place all in the hands of God.

     The Entrance Antiphon today, taken from Proverbs, says ... "Behold a wise woman, who has built her house.  She feared the Lord and walked in the right path."  Elizabeth Seton was such a woman.  If you know her story, you know that this is true.  If you do not know her story, by all means look it up.  Born when our nation was born, she grew up in the Episcopal Church of a prominent family in New York, was well educated and priviledged, married a young merchant by the name of William Seton, established a family, and became a widow at a young age through the unexpected death of her husband while on a business trip to Italy.
Staying with business friends while in Italy, she encountered their Catholic faith and was introduced to the Eucharist in the Catholic Church.  Her curiosity was aroused and her hunger and desire to come to the table of the Lord at Mass led her to persue a path to the Catholic Community.  A convert, she lost her family and close friends, and established a school to provide for her children.  Encouraged to enter into Religious Life, she eventually established the Daughters of Charity and served as foundress, known as Mother Seton.  She died young, but her spiritual children live on and give life to her charisms through their mininstries.  Her life is much greater than this brief summary.  If you ever have a chance to visit the Shrine in Emmittsburg, or even the Sisters of Charity at Seton Hill, where there is a beautiful, small archive museum, please do so.

     The Prayer after Communion today states:  " ... while recalling the menory of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, we humbly ask you, O Lord, that we may be inflamed with a burning desire for the heavenly table, and by its power consecrate our life faithfully to you."


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