Ministry at the Shrine of St. Elizabeth Seton
By S. Judith Metz
The National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg, Maryland, offers visitors the opportunity to reflect on her life and on the Charity values, mission, and spirit being carried forward by her followers. The Shrine provides multiple ways for in-person or virtual visitors to deepen their knowledge of this heritage.
The Shrine offers historic house tours of the original homes of the first American Sisters of Charity, as well as living history tours that provide opportunities to connect with people important to Elizabeth Seton. Civil War tours recount stories of the Daughters of Charity involvement in the lead-up to the Battle of Gettysburg, as well as their heroic nursing service in its aftermath. Seasonal events tie in with the liturgical calendar of the Church.
To virtually participate in Shrine activities, visit the website at www.setonshrine.org. Offerings include livestream Masses, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and prayer services, weekly reflections on various aspects of Elizabeth Seton’s life and spirituality, a virtual book club, and news of upcoming offerings. These might include programs such as livestream tours of virtual exhibits or of the historic houses. New opportunities are often posted.
An exciting new retreat initiative inspired by Pope Francis, led to the inauguration of the Shrine’s Seeds of Hope Retreat Program. The Holy Father exhorted shrines to be places where “the doors are wide open to the sick, the disabled, and above all the poor, the marginalized, refugees and migrants.” S. Anne Marie Lemoureaux, a Daughter of Charity and member of the Shrine staff, had long dreamed of providing a place of retreat for such persons. When she approached Rob Judge, Shrine director, with starting such a program, it quickly took off. Grants and donations provided the cost of motor coaches, food, table settings, and staffing.
Word was spread through organizations such as the Daughters of Charity, Seton Center, Ladies of Charity, Society of St. Vincent de Paul, and the Frederick Rescue Mission in Emmitsburg as well as the Baltimore and Washington, D.C. areas. The first program was in April 2018, and to date eight retreats have been held serving about 200 people. At the conclusion of each retreat participants are given a Hope stone and a pass enabling them to come to any event at the Shrine, as well as a discount in the gift shop.
At the end of each program participants are invited to share their reflections. One commented, “I was moved to go to confession after 20 years,” and another, “I felt safe today.” Although the program is currently on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is slated to continue as soon as possible. Of this S. Anne Marie is certain because “this initiative has been completely guided by the Holy Spirit,” and inspired by St. Vincent de Paul.