SummaryDr. Mary Kay Clark shares that St. Elizabeth Ann Seton taught to her students’ needs and abilities and made love and caring the essence of her curriculum.
Elizabeth Ann Seton grew up taking Christianity to heart.
Her grandfather was an Episcopalian minister, and her mother was a devout Christian who often read Bible stories to little Elizabeth.
Though she lost her mother at the age of three, the Christian influence remained, and as she grew older, Elizabeth kept reading those Bible stories. Because her widower father spent many hours caring for his medical patients, Elizabeth’s faithful companion was Scripture.
Elizabeth married a wealthy businessman, and the young couple was blessed with five children. The young mother taught them as she had been taught: with a love for learning and a love for Scripture.
When Elizabeth’s husband became seriously ill, they went to Italy where they lived with a Catholic family and where they attended Mass in the family chapel. After her husband had died, Elizabeth learned more about the Catholic Faith as she attended daily Mass. The idea of receiving Jesus in the Holy Eucharist was especially consoling to Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth returned to the United States, she attended classes to learn more about the Catholic Faith, and was eventually baptized along with her children.
Inspired by the Catholic Faith, and recognizing the importance of a good Catholic education, she began to homeschool her children and started teaching other children as well.
Elizabeth’s new Catholic friends quickly witnessed a strong dedication to teaching her children, and began sending their children to her as she taught her own. In the years that followed, Elizabeth started an order of teaching sisters under the authority of the Bishop of Baltimore, who gave her land with a tiny chapel and a stone farmhouse for teaching girls.
In the wonderful and beautiful Providence of God, Elizabeth Seton was both a biological mother and a spiritual mother: Mother Seton’s three daughters, and two sisters-in-law became religious sisters and helped her teach Catholic girls in the little school.
Mother Seton’s pedagogic method for the students was simple. Recognizing that different children learn differently, she would explain concepts in several ways until each child understood them. In helping the children understand, she often used scripture references and Gospel parables.
Curriculum of Love and Care
Like many of the Catholic homeschooling mothers of today, Elizabeth had no training as a teacher; no training, that is, outside the natural gifts and supernatural graces that God gives Catholic mothers which enable them to teach their children according to their needs and abilities.
Like many Catholic homeschooling mothers of today, love and caring were the essence of her curriculum.
One great virtue of Mother Seton was her reliance on Jesus despite terrific difficulties. The little community of nuns experienced frequent sicknesses and deaths. Elizabeth was often sick herself, and one of her daughters became seriously ill and died. Meals were often infrequent, as the sisters waited until local families donated food.
The nuns were constantly cold in the winters. Yet, young women continued to join their community. They were warmed by the love of God, and their sustenance was the Eucharist. All the while, Mother Seton endured.
The story of Elizabeth Ann Seton and her sisters should encourage us in our own struggles. They accepted their hardships as the way of the Cross. They had confidence that no problem would be too great to overcome if they sought the truth and kept and practiced their Faith.
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, pray for us homeschooling mothers who want to give our children the spiritual weapons they need in a society confused about the boundaries between good and evil, or even worse, a society insistent that no such boundaries exist. Help our Catholic children to desire a good Catholic education, not only for their own eternal welfare, but also for the welfare of the Church.
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, pray for us homeschooling families to recognize our responsibility to keep the Catholic Faith strong in America. Pray for us that we may understand the importance of helping our children recognize the need to keep Christian values in our local, state, and national governments.
Help our children to revive Christian values in our nation, to care for the poor and the weak, to be their brother’s keeper, and to protect human persons at all stages of life.
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, pray for us.