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"You will so often be at a standstill for what is best in a situation so new, but only do your best... and leave the rest to our dear God."

—Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton

For nearly 200 years, the Sisters of Charity of New York have met the challenges of the times and ministered to the needs of the poor. The congregation's history begins with its foundress, Elizabeth Ann Seton, who was later canonized as the first American-born saint.

Elizabeth Ann Bayley, was born in 1774, into an upper class, well educated, Episcopalian family in New York City. Her mother died when she was three. Out of this confluence of birth and life events, she became a well-educated, talented young lady, who was also prayerful and caring, particularly for people in need.

Elizabeth married William Magee Seton and had five children in seven years. She and other young prominent women in New York society served the poor, particularly widows and orphans. Ironically, Elizabeth became a penniless widow within 10 years of marrying when her ailing husband died in Italy. Influenced by the kindness of her husband's friends and her attraction to the Eucharist, Elizabeth converted to Catholicism. In order to support her children she taught school. Later, Elizabeth Ann Seton opened a Catholic school for girls in Baltimore and still later moved to Emmitsburg, opened another Catholic school and with a small community of women concentrated on a defined lifestyle for their religious congregation. They adopted the rule that Saints Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac had created in 17th century France.

Within a year, Elizabeth took vows and founded the first American congregation of women religious. In 1817 she sent three of her sisters to New York City to open an orphanage, establishing the foundation of the Sisters of Charity in New York.

Visit the online museum devoted to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.


1774 Elizabeth Ann Bayley born in New York City.

1809 Elizabeth establishes Sisters of Charity in America in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

1817 Three Sisters go to New York City to open an orphanage. This was the first mission of the Sisters of Charity in New York.

1821 Elizabeth Seton dies of tuberculosis in Emmitsburg.

1833 Church establishes beginning of Catholic school system in New York City and the Sisters are charged with education of girls.

1846 The Sisters of Charity of New York are formally established as a congregation.

1849 Sister Mary Angela Hughes opens St. Vincent's Hospital.

1859 Sisters move motherhouse from what is now Central Park to present location in Riverdale, NY.

1869 Sister Mary Irene Fitzgibbon opens the New York Foundling Hospital.

1888 First Sisters of Charity mission outside the U.S. begins in Nassau, Bahamas.

1910 New York State grants a charter for the College of Mount St. Vincent, which evolved from the Academy of Mount St. Vincent's fifth-year program established by the sisters.

1947 Beginning of the Federation of the Sisters of Charity in the Vincentian tradition.

1971 Congregation opens first mission in Central America in Santa Lucia Utatlan, Guatemala to serve the Mayan Indians.

1975 Elizabeth Seton canonized. She becomes the first American - born saint. Sisters establish Associate Relationship Program.

1986 Sisters open Fox House, which provides temporary housing, education and social services for homeless women and their children.

1995 Congregation's Assembly adopts Vision 2000, which emphasizes focus on women's issues, global awareness and the poor.

1995 - present Sisters establish Casa de Esperanza, Elizabeth Ann Seton Women's Center, Sisters Hill Farm and Seton Village.