Come and See
Memorial of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
It’s no coincidence that many religious and diocesan vocation programs call the short retreats they hold for their candidates “Come and See” weekends. They invite participants to observe the life and ministries of the friars. More than that, however, they are designed to help candidates enter into the personal relationship with Jesus that is necessary to properly discern any vocation.
When John directed his disciples to Jesus by identifying him as “the Lamb of God,” they asked the Lord, “Where are you staying?” He called them to spend time with him, and after being with him only short time, Andrew was convinced. He went to his brother Simon and said, “We have found the Messiah.” The most powerful testimonies of faith are not eloquent sermons or profound theological works but rather our personal experiences and the lives we live as the result of our relationship with the Lord.
Elizabeth Ann Seton, a wife and mother of five children, was a well-educated woman of high society in New York. When her husband’s business fell on hard times and he died of tuberculosis in Italy, she had to change course. She started a school for young women and converted to Catholicism in 1805. At that time there was only one Catholic parish in New York City. Her conversion was not well-received by her Protestant neighbors, and many of them pulled their daughters out of her school.
Though beset by this and other challenges, including the death of two of her children, Elizabeth Seton remained faithful to her work as an educator and eventually moved to Baltimore and began the first Catholic free school in the young United States as well as the first native congregation of women religious, the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph, which eventually merged into the Daughters of Charity. She is considered the founder of the Catholic school system in the USA.
Elizabeth Ann Seton’s first response to the Lord’s call was to be a wife and mother. When her circumstances changed, she heard him beckon her to become an educator and the founder of a religious congregation. The call to “come and see” can lead us to places we never imagined. jc