(portions of the text below are based on research by Sr. Betty Ann McNeil, D.C.)
March 19 marks the feast of Saint Joseph, a saint who was especially dear to the heart of Elizabeth Ann Seton.
During her year in Baltimore, Elizabeth discovered the significance of Saint Joseph. The Sulpicians obtained the first statue of Joseph for their newly dedicated chapel at Saint Mary’s Seminary (Paca Street). Saint Joseph was also gaining prominence on the liturgical calendar. No doubt his guardianship of the Child Jesus must have been consoling to Mrs. Seton as a widow and sole parent of five young children. According to tradition, Mother Seton named the area where she settled Saint Joseph’s Valley, and the area is still informally known by that name.
Mother Seton originally planned to name her community Sisters of Saint Joseph. After arriving in Emmitsburg she chose the title Sisters of Charity of Saint Joseph’s. This legal name was used by the Province of Emmitsburg until 2011 when it combined with three other former provinces to create today’s Province of St. Louise.
The building known today as the White House was built by Mother Seton in 1810 and originally known as Saint Joseph’s House. It was the Mother House for her community until ca. 1845. Saint Joseph’s Central House, headquarters from 1845-1964, is now the site of the National Emergency Training Center, part of FEMA. Headquarters for the Emmitsburg Province from 1964 to 2011 was St. Joseph’s Provincial House, the building we occupy today. The building, known today as St. Joseph House, houses the Provincial Archives, the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, active communities of Daughters of Charity, retirement facilities for Daughters and lay people. The life of Saint Joseph is depicted in stained glass windows located in the foyer of the Basilica at the Seton Shrine.
Mother Seton instructed Saint Joseph’s Class, comprising pupils from the Emmitsburg area. Her school, founded 1810, became Saint Joseph’s Academy. The current Mother Seton School traces its roots to her establishment. Developing from Saint Joseph’s Academy, Saint Joseph College was a liberal arts college for women which chartered in 1902 and served until 1973. The college grounds are now part of the National Emergency Training Center.
On the feast of St. Joseph in 1885, a fire broke out at St. Joseph’s Central House. Seminarians from Mount St. Mary’s, along with townspeople and fire companies, worked together to put out the fire. Since then, seminarians from the Mount have been invited to a special dinner on the campus on St. Joseph’s feast day in gratitude for their help in putting out the 1885 fire. Learn more about the 1885 fire