Jesus’ Call and Our Response
Today’s Gospel features John the Baptist and two of his disciples meeting Jesus as he walked by – “the Lamb of God”. This encounter led to Jesus’ invitation to “come and see” where he was staying – and ultimately, that first encounter with Jesus led to dedicated lives as his disciples.
Over the centuries countless women and men have responded to Jesus’ invitation to “come and see”, to follow him in lives of selfless service. An 18th Century American woman-disciple is honored today: St. Elizabeth Ann Seton…the first American-born saint.
Born in 1774, Elizabeth Ann was raised as an Episcopalian. She married William Seton and helped raise their five children. She was drawn to the Catholic faith by a Catholic family whom she met while traveling in Italy with her husband. After her husband’s untimely death from tuberculosis at age 30, Elizabeth Ann embraced the Catholic faith – subsequently opening a parish school in Baltimore to support her family as well as witness her Catholic faith … despite protests from her anti-Catholic family and friends.
A group of young women gradually joined Elizabeth Ann in her approach to education and Christian life. In 1809 they formed the American Sisters of Charity, following the rule of St. Vincent de Paul; later they helped found other schools and orphanages. By the time of her death on January 4, 1821, the community had expanded their ministries as far west as St. Louis, being involved in some twenty schools and orphanages.
Elizabeth Ann Seton was called by God to help build up the Church in her day. As noted in today’s Gospel, Jesus drew disciples to himself; Elizabeth Ann joined those early disciples in saying “yes” to Jesus and then worked tirelessly to grow the Church, especially among those on the margins.
The new year 2023 is upon us, and God blesses us with the Passionist charism as promoted by our holy Founder, St. Paul of the Cross, and the many people who have shared his spirit. This new year, may we deepen our relationship with Jesus – as we encourage others to “come and see” God’s love present in their lives. With Elizabeth Ann Seton & Paul of the Cross, we pray Psalm 98: “Sing to the Lord a new song, for God has done wondrous deeds…”.
Fr. John Schork, C.P. serves as the Province Vocation Director and also as Local Superior of the Passionist Community of Holy Name in Houston, Texas.