Making an Impact

Mount News: alumni magazine

By: Peter Robinson

Pilgrims' Progress: Striving to know oneself in the context of something vastly larger than self -- this is the essence of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

We came to appreciate Elizabeth as a woman born into privilege but thrust into poverty, a wife widowed at 29, and the single parent of five who put her children’s well-being first.

The word “pilgrimage” isn’t used too often these days. The Hajj, the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca, is well known, but a 500-mile trek to Emmitsburg, Maryland? It sounds obscure, but that’s where a dozen pilgrims from the Mount headed in June, specifically to the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton.

The experience, underwritten by a Netvue Grant from the Council of Independent Colleges and led by Sister Judith Metz ’66, SC, Ph.D., John Trokan, D.Min., and Sister Nancy
Bramlage ’67, SC, was designed to deepen our understanding of the Sisters of Charity through Mother Seton, foundress of the order and the first American-born saint.

We were a diverse group with varied backgrounds, but united in a desire to learn more as we sought answers to various personal, spiritual and pedagogical questions. Who was Elizabeth Seton? How could a saint’s spiritual greatness realistically inform our lives? What effects can Elizabeth’s life and ministries – two centuries ago – have on teaching and learning at Mount St. Joseph University today?

Our journey toward answers was transformative. We came to appreciate Elizabeth as a woman born into privilege but thrust into poverty, a wife widowed at 29, and the single parent of five who put her children’s well-being first. She was revolutionary. She converted to Catholicism in a predominantly Protestant nation. She was a strong woman in a man’s world whose gentleness was fortified by tireless determination. We connected with Elizabeth as a fellow pilgrim whose trials and sojourns closely resembled the personal odysseys we all face. We connected deeply with her legacies of education, service, and the common good, which are at the core of the Mount experience, regardless of one’s religious beliefs. And we were struck by the heritage of caregiving so powerfully evident at Emmitsburg that is readily visible in the Mount’s commitment to healthcare education today. The spirituality modeled by Elizabeth Ann Seton in her 46 years is grounded in the struggles and celebrations of daily living and in being what she called “a citizen of the world.”

The Sisters of Charity identify themselves as pilgrims committed to walking “in humility, simplicity, and charity.” After five exhilarating days, we felt solidarity with them and newly connected with one another. Yet our pilgrimage is far from over. It continues as we share our experiences and journey on within the Mount community toward a greater understanding of ourselves and our world.