November 6, 2015

Seminarians’ pilgrimage of faith includes visit to saint’s shrine

Pictured is the outside of the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg, Md. (Courtesy photo)

Pictured is the outside of the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmitsburg, Md. (Courtesy photo)

By Mike Krokos

Pope Francis wasn’t the only person to make a connection with America’s first native born saint during his recent pilgrimage to the United States.

While President Barack Obama presented the Holy Father with a key to the home of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton as a gift upon the pope’s arrival to the White House on Sept. 23, young men in formation for the priesthood at Bishop Simon Bruté College Seminary in Indianapolis spent time at the saint’s shrine in Emmitsburg, Md., a day later.

On Sept. 24, the 38 seminarians and Father Robert Robeson, rector of Bishop Bruté, and Father Joseph Moriarty, vice-rector, toured the grounds of the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and celebrated Mass there. The day before, the priests and seminarians were among the estimated 25,000 people who attended the canonization liturgy for Blessed Junipero Serra outside the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.

Their pilgrimage of faith included a stop in Emmittsburg on their way home to Indianapolis.

“It was great to be in the same place where a saint lived and worked,” said Adam Berning, a sophomore at Bishop Bruté and a member of Sacred Heart Parish in McCartyville, Ohio, in the Cincinnati Archdiocese. “It was amazing.”

Two hundred years ago, Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton founded the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph’s, the first new community for religious women to be established in the United States in Emmittsburg, Md. She also began St. Joseph’s Academy and Free School, the first free Catholic school for girls staffed by religious sisters in the United States.

But the saint also has a connection with a former shepherd of the Archdiocese of Indianapolis. The Servant of God Simon Bruté, who served from 1834-1839 as the first bishop of the Diocese of Vincennes, Ind., which later became the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, served as St. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s spiritual director for many years.

Before becoming a bishop, Father Bruté was on the theology faculty for 35 years at Mount St. Mary’s, the second seminary established in the United States.While there, he also ministered to the Sisters of Charity.

“The property there [where the sisters lived and ministered] was given to them by a seminarian’s family at Mount St. Mary’s,” explained Father Robeson.

The priest and religious sister both had strong spiritual lives and developed a great friendship. When Father Bruté left Mount St. Mary’s following his appointment as bishop of Vincennes, “he gave her his Bible, and she gave him her Bible,” Father Robeson said.

“When St. Elizabeth Ann Seton became a saint, they asked for the Bible back. It was in Vincennes in the Bruté archives,” Father Robeson continued. “They were very close friends. He ministered to the parish in Emmittsburg, but also to the sisters there. He was their chaplain.”

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s legacy includes six religious communities with more than 5,000 members, hundreds of schools, and social service centers throughout the U.S. and the world. Her remains are entombed in the Basilica of the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Emmittsburg.

Berning said he now appreciates even more the saint’s commitment to faith-based education.

“It really brought to my attention the need of great Catholic schools and great Catholic teachers in the United States because there is such a rich tradition of it,” Berning said. “To be where the first free Catholic school was in the United States that Mother Seton founded was really cool.”

(For more information on the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, log on to

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