Last night at the end of supper our summer guest, Elizabeth, told us that as a child her grandmother had given her a medal of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. She said that she wore it for some time but then it disappeared and she hadn’t given St. Elizabeth much thought since then. Until now, spending the month of July volunteering at the border and living with us at Casa de Caridad. “So what’s her story?” she asked.
I could almost hear Sisters Peggy and Carol in chorus: Here we go again… Because I love to talk about Elizabeth. She isn’t just a historical figure or some remote saintly being. Elizabeth is real! And she is a “woman for all women”. That’s where I started. Elizabeth Seton was a woman, a wife, a mother, a sister, a teacher, a convert to Catholicism, a founder of a religious congregation. I shared the facts, the details, the general outline of her life in the early days of the United States.
But Elizabeth lives on today in the women who carry the same spark of the Holy Spirit that she brought to the world. That spark is what we call the charism of Charity. It’s like a spiritual gene that we share. Just as Franciscans carry the gene of St. Francis and Clare of Assisi- and all those women and men throughout the centuries who have followed in their footsteps.
Last week I was blessed to lead a prayer service that welcomed a young woman into the very first step of discernment with the Sisters of Charity. She has an aunt and a cousin who are Sisters of Charity, as were two great-aunts at the beginning of the 20th century. So the spark of the charism definitely runs in the family. As we gathered in prayer, Elizabeth was there. I have no doubt that she will accompany Andrea in the next twelve months as she seeks to discover whether God calls her to a next step with the congregation.
Telling Elizabeth’s story is a sacred trust. It’s like talking about a dear friend or beloved parent and I was honored to be asked. In the sharing I found new depths of connection, new energy sparking in my own heart. I’m still learning her story- and she lives on in my own.