July 19, 1813: Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph’s Pronounce Vows

by | Jul 16, 2017 | Formation

This Wednesday is the anniversary of the date when St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and the first Sisters of Charity made vows using the Vincentian vow formula. Click on the image below to view the Seton Legacy Timeline on VinFormation.

More details from emmitsburg.net (via the archives of Saint Joseph’s Provincial House, Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, Emmitsburg, Maryland):

“Samuel Sutherland Cooper, (1769-1843), a wealthy seminarian and convert, purchased 269 acres of land for an establishment for the sisterhood near Emmitsburg in the countryside of Frederick County, Maryland. Cooper wished to establish an institution for female education and character formation rooted in Christian values and the Catholic faith, as well as services to the elderly, job skill development, and a small manufactory, which would be beneficial to people oppressed by poverty. Cooper had Elizabeth in mind to direct the educational program.

Their stone farmhouse (c.1750) was not yet ready for occupancy when Elizabeth and her first group arrived in Emmitsburg, June, 1809. Reverend John Dubois, S.S., (1764-1842), founder of Mount Saint Mary’s College and Seminary (1808), offered his cabin on Saint Mary’s Mountain for the women to use until they would be able to move to their property in the nearby valley some six weeks later. According to tradition, Elizabeth named the area Saint Joseph’s Valley. There the Sisters of Charity of Saint Joseph’s began July 31, 1809 in the Stone House, the former Fleming farmhouse (c.1750). In mid-February, 1810, Elizabeth and her companions moved into Saint Joseph’s House (now The White House.) Elizabeth opened Saint Joseph’s Free School February 22, 1810. It educated needy girls of the area and was the first free Catholic school for girls staffed by sisters in the country. Saint Joseph’s Academy began May 14, 1810, with the addition of boarding pupils who paid tuition which enabled the Sisters of Charity to subsidize their charitable mission. Saint Joseph’s Academy and Free School formed the cradle of Catholic education in the United States.

Divine Providence guided Elizabeth and her little community through the poverty and unsettling first years. Numerous women joined the Sisters of Charity. During the period 1809-1820, of the ninety-eight candidates who arrived in Elizabeth’s lifetime, eighty-six of them actually joined the new community; seventy percent remained Sisters of Charity for life. Illness, sorrow, and early death were omnipresent in Elizabeth’s life. She buried eighteen sisters at Emmitsburg, in addition to her two daughters Annina and Rebecca, and her sisters-in-law Harriet and Cecilia Seton.

The Sulpicians assisted Elizabeth in adapting the seventeenth-century French Common Rules of the Daughters of Charity (1672) for the Sisters of Charity of Saint Joseph’s in accord with the needs of the Catholic Church in America. Elizabeth formed her sisters in the Vincentian spirit according to the tradition of Louise de Marillac (1591-1660) and Vincent de Paul (1581-1660). Eighteen Sisters of Charity, including Elizabeth, made private, annual vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and service of the poor for the first time, July 19, 1813; thereafter they made vows annually on March 25.”