An American Saint – “Go Forward”

by | Feb 23, 2014 | Vincentian Family

Seton-BarthelThe Seton family motto, from its 12th century coat-of-arms, was At Whatever Risk, Yet Go Forward. … So she did.

Regina Bechtle SC draws our attention to “AMERICAN SAINT: The Life of Elizabeth Seton” a new biography by writer Joan Barthel with a foreword by Maya Angelou .

Regina writes “Joan has long loved and studied Elizabeth’s life. This book fulfills a cherished dream to tell her story in a popular, contemporary style in order to reach people who might not read “religious” books. She wanted to present our Saint as a strong, passionate woman and a leader who broke through many of the conventional roles of women in her day – even as an early feminist, before the word and the movement came to the fore.

“Joan did extensive research in the Archives of the NY & Cincinnati SC’s and the Daughters of Charity in Emmitsburg. She visited all of the sites where Elizabeth lived, and even traveled to Italy in her footsteps. I’m sure that the book will stretch our understanding of Elizabeth and give us a fresh perspective on her.”

We all know the basic outlines of Elizabeth’s life. Elizabeth Seton was rich, poor, an aristocrat, an outcast, a wife, a mother (a working mother), a widow, a teacher, a nurse, a social worker. She was a Protestant most of her life, then a Catholic, an almost-accidental nun, and the first American-born saint in the Catholic Church. When she was born in New York in 1774, on the edge of revolution, she was a British subject. By the age of two she was an original American whose life is a paradigm of spiritual growth, sometimes in a context of organized religion, sometimes outside it, sometimes in spite of it.

Joan Barthel is the award-winning author of five nonfiction books and a contributor to many national publications, including The Washington Post Magazine andThe New York Times Magazine. Her cover story on Elizabeth Seton in the Times Magazine inspired her to bring the singular life of this first American-born saint into contemporary focus and ultimately led to her most recent book, American Saint which will be published on March 4 by St. Martin’s Press.

James Martin, SJ, Carol Burnett, Gloria Steinem, and  Mary Higgins Clark write laudatory comments. about the work.

Visit her website



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