St Elizabeth Seton

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Wife and foundress. She was the first native-born American woman to be canonised. Born in New York in 1774 to a prominent Episcopalian family, at 20 she married a professor of anatomy, Richard Seton. Their marriage was a happy one and they had five children, but in 1803, Richard died.

Elizabeth became a Catholic in 1805 and founded a religious order, the American Sisters of Charity, based on the rule of St Vincent de Paul, devoted to the relief of the poor and school teaching. She spent the rest of her life to leading and caring for her community.

She has been described as a 'charming and cultivated woman of determined character'. Elizabeth died near Baltimore in 1821 and was canonised in 1975 by Pope Paul VI.

During the canonization service, which was attended by more than 1,000 sisters from north and south America, the Pope stressed her extraordinary contribution as wife, mother, widow and consecrated nun, the example of her dynamic and authentic witness for future generations and the affirmation of that ' religious spirituality which your (i.e. America's) temporal prosperity seemed to obscure and almost make impossible.'