It was senior year of high school and everyone, including myself, was deciding where they should go to college. As usual, I went to my grandfather for advice. I had a few options and I was unsure where I should commit. He encouraged me to research each of the colleges I had been accepted into carefully, including the principles, histories, values, and missions that each of them supported and was founded upon. One university after another, I diligently searched as my grandpa had advised.
When it came to Seton Hall University, I remember finding loads of information about its Catholic mission, extra-curricular opportunities, and the education program of which I would soon be a part. What struck me, however, was the information I found regarding why this school had its name, and who it was named after: Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton. Her legacy of servitude, faith, and feminist accomplishments should be learned and recognized by the entire Seton Hall University community: Saint Elizabeth is an inspiration and role model to us all.
When students, faculty, and alumni think of Seton Hall University, many ideas and happy memories may come to mind. Some examples might include basketball games at The Rock (one of my personal favorites), classes we fell in love with, friends we made, and spring days on the green. Many fail to recognize, however, the legendary woman our great university is named after. Elizabeth Ann Seton was born to an Episcopalian family on August 28th, 1774, in New York City. By the age of nineteen, she was living in Italy and was married to her husband, William Magee Seton.
Together they had five children: William Seton II, Richard, Catherine, Anna Maria, and Rebecca Mary. During her time in Italy, Seton discovered Catholicism and converted to this new faith. After her husband William passed away, Elizabeth returned to New York and brought her faith back to her native country. Despite being a widow, Saint Elizabeth bravely raised her children on her own and brought them back to America where she was determined to spread her faith. Even though Elizabeth had lost the support of her parents after converting and was a single mother, she was still determined to do her best for God.
Seton’s aim was to inform others of God’s power and redeeming love. She went on to be a part of several Catholic service organizations, which would inform others about her faith as well as aid those in need. Seton founded the Sisters of Charity in America, which has several branches throughout the nation. According to the organization Seton Shrine, this was “the first community for religious women established in the United States.” This group sponsored hospitals and health care, as well as provided educational opportunities for those in need. Beyond this, Seton also started St. Joseph’s academy and Free School which was dedicated to, “planting the seeds of Catholic education in the United States.” Saint Elizabeth also helped to establish religious centers throughout North America, where individuals continue to work and help those in poverty today.
Just like Elizabeth, it is up to us to tell others about God and our own faith, spreading His word and His promise to save us if we believe in Him. Seton worked hard for God, spread love to those around her, and did her best to share the Gospel. Regardless of her hardships and struggles, Saint Elizabeth was a strong and independent woman who worked hard for what she believed in. Although she may not have known it at the time, she has become an icon for strength, bravery, and even feminism.
Even though she lost the support of her family and had lost her husband, she did not change her ways or lose her faith. It would have been easy for Seton to pretend that she was still an Episcopalian in order to take part in her family’s wealth, but she stood by her beliefs instead. Seton persevered, proving that women can do anything, including spreading God’s word and supporting her family on her own. In 1975, Pope Paul VI canonized Seton, making her the first American-born woman to be named a saint. Her nephew, Bishop James Roosevelt Bayley, a Bishop of Newark, was the founder of Seton Hall and named the school after his aunt to honor her work and memory. Her faith was an inspiration to both himself and others, so much so that our entire university was named after her.
Although Saint Elizabeth passed many years ago, her legacy lives on and should be remembered. Her characteristics of bravery, strength, feminism, and faith should inspire us and be carried on today. Those fighting for modern gender equality should admire and look up to Seton, who could be considered a part of the movement before it even began. For instance, she raised her children on her own, moving them from her home in Italy to America.
Additionally, Seton was disowned by her parents upon converting to a new faith, but this did not stop her from holding on to what she believed in and pursuing her goal to spread God’s word and His love to those in need. Saint Elizabeth could have easily given up, accepted her parents’ money at the cost of her own beliefs, and lived an easy life in which she knew herself and her children would be cared for financially. Instead, Seton proved that even as a woman, she could do anything she wanted to with her own life.
Too often women are viewed as inferior or incapable of doing things on their own, but Seton proved that this is simply not true. As a woman, she established organizations that continue to help people today, provided educational opportunities for those who needed it, and worked on developing hospitals in America. We should be honored to attend a university named after someone so loving, faithful, and brave.
Elizabeth Ann Seton should be a role model to every single student, staff member, and administrator at Seton Hall University. Her missions of educating, spreading God’s word, and helping those less fortunate should be carried on by each of us. These acts of kindness and faith can be seen throughout our campus, and each of us should do our best to be a part of these missions. Some concrete examples of Seton Hall’s mission can be seen in organizations such as the Division of Volunteer Efforts (DOVE), the Office of Mission and Ministry, and even our “The Heart of the Hall” publication.
In today’s world, we have many more opportunities, resources, and technologies than ever before to share God’s promise to save those who believe in Him, and to help those in need. We can use our social media platforms to let others know of a God who loves and cares for us, as demonstrated by our “The Heart of the Hall” Instagram and Facebook pages. Pirates can volunteer to help educate others who may be at a disadvantage, just as Elizabeth Seton would have done. Whatever you decide to do for God, it is important to do your best and show others how amazing His love can be. Saint Elizabeth would have loved to see how much our University is doing to help others, as well as how much we do to spread God’s word. We must continue to work on this and expand our ministry to further her legacy.