The Setons, Bayleys and Roosevelts

Seton, Bayley and Roosevelt sounds like a Park Avenue practice; they sound like surnames of character names from an old Katharine Hepburn/Cary Grant movie. In fact, Hepburn did play a “Seton” in the 1938 film “Holiday”.

If the names sound much more “Episcopal” than Catholic, it’s because they are.

Dr. Pat McNamara, who runs a weekly column, “In Ages Past” at Patheos’ Catholic portal, also blogs at McNamara’s Blog, where this week I was delighted to read about a favorite saint of mine, Elizabeth Ann Seton, and her very fascinating family, which included a connection to the Roosevelts.

I must read more about Sr. Catherine Seton, Elizabeth’s daughter, who sounds like a woman with a mind of her own:

Elizabeth Ann Bayley’s story is reasonably well known: wife, mother, widow, convert, nun, first American-born saint. Born to a prominent Episcopalian family in Manhattan, she married into another. William Magee Seton (1768-1803) belonged to a distinguished clan with deep roots in England and Scotland. At 29, after nine years of marriage, Elizabeth was widowed with five children: Anna (1795-1812), William (1796-1868), Richard (1798-1823), Catherine (1800-1891), and Rebecca (1802-1816).

Her conversion to Catholicism in 1805 dismayed her relatives; she was written out of her godmother’s substantial will. Moving to Baltimore, she founded the Sisters of Charity in 1809. For twelve years she was the superior in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Her final words were, “Be children of the Church, be children of the Church.”

All three daughters followed her advice. Anna and Rebecca joined her at Emmitsburg, but both died in their teens. Catherine became a socialite, traveled, and received many marriage proposals, rejecting them all. At 46, she joined the Sisters of Mercy. She was particularly active in prison ministry.

The whole piece is entertaining; all of those people cut from wills, the socialite daughter who became a nun in her 40’s and studied new languages in her 80’s, the eccentric priest with the small feet. Read it all here

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