Two hundred years of faith: Sisters of Charity celebrate bicentennia


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EMMITSBURG, Md. (CNS) -- Peering through a glass display case, 9-year-old Gloria Whitfield was impressed with an old letter that rested on a 19th-century wooden writing desk. Composed by St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the May 3, 1803, note, written in a flowing black script, was addressed to one of the saint's daughters on the girl's birthday.

"May almighty God bless you, my child, and make you his child forever," it said.

Establishing an up-close connection with the first U.S.-born saint was a thrill for Gloria, a parishioner of St. Timothy in Centerville, Va.

The youngster was equally impressed by a locket with St. Elizabeth Ann's hair, relics and other historic artifacts on display at the visitor center of the Basilica of the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg.

"It's cool," said Gloria. "She did a lot for Catholic schools. She helped a lot of people."

Gloria was one of about 1,000 people from across the country and around the world who converged in Emmitsburg Aug. 2 to celebrate a special Mass honoring the 200th anniversary of Mother Seton's arrival in the small town.

The celebration also commemorated the 200th anniversary of the establishment of the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph -- the first new community for women religious in the U.S.