(Exerpt from THE SETON CAUSEWAY, December 1975 and cover image from Elizabeth Seton canonization program, 1975 used with permission of the Daughters of Charity Provincial Archives)
Below are exerpts from THE SETON CAUSEWAY describing Elizabeth Seton’s canonization ceremony in Rome on September 14, 1975.
The enthusiastic response of Canadians and especially Americans forced the moving of the canonization Mass and ceremony for St. Elizabeth Ann Seton out of St. Peter’s Basilica into the Square. Weeks in advance, seven American cardinals, 80 members of the hierarchy and some 16,000 priests, religious, and laity had signified their intention to be present. Under the direction of Sister Eleanor McNabb, assisted by Sisters Helen Marie Law and Mary Ellen Sheldon, requests for tickets were processed beginning the end of May.
There was no disappointment, either in weather or crowd. The great Sunday dawned clear and beautiful, with lots of bright sunshine and just enough clouds to temper it and stir up pleasant airs. There were various estimates of the size of the crowd, ranging from 150 to 250 thousand. No matter, the seemingly limitless expanse of St. Peter’s Square was filled …
After the Kyrie, the Pope seated himself in front of the altar facing the people and the canonization ceremony began. In a break with tradition four womenh approached the Holy Father, in turn, to petition for Elizabeth Ann Seton’s canonization. These women represented four stages of the new saint-to-be’s life: the young girl, the wife, the widow, and the religious foundress. The petitions were made in French by Ines Amanrich, young daughter of the French ambassador to the Vatican; in Spanish by Lidice Maria Gomez de Carriquiry of Ecuador, in Italian by Gina Faggino of Italy, and in English by Sister Kathleen O’Toole, S.C., mother general of the Sisters of Charity of Halifax. Archbishop Bafile, pro-prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Canonization of Saints, accompanied by Father William W. Sheldon, C.M. postulator general of the Cause, then formally petitioned the Holy Father for the canonization in light of the facts presented by the four women.
After prayer, including the litany of the saints … the Holy Father infallibly pronounced Elizabeth Ann Seton a saint in the following words:
“For the honor of the Most Holy Trinity, for the exaltation of the Catholic Faith and the increase of the Christian life, by the authority of Our Lord Jesus Christ, of the holy Apostles Peter and Paul and by Our authority, after mature deliberation and most frequent prayer for divine assistance having obtained the counsel of many of our brother bishops, we declare and we define that Blessed Elizabeth Ann Bayley Seton is a saint, and we inscribe her name in the calendar of saints, and mandate that she should be devoutly honored among the saints in the Universal Church”.
Still another landmark ‘first’ took place when Sister Hildegarde Marie Mahoney, S.C., general superior of the Sisters of Charity of St. Elizabeth, Convent Station, J.J., read the first lesson of the Mass, the first time a woman had participated in the liturgy of a papal Mass …
The Triduum of Masses of thanksgiving was held at the Major Basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls on three successive days beginning Tuesday September 16 at 6PM. Cardinal Shehan was the principal celebrant that evening, and Archbishop Borders preached the Homily. The next morning, Wednesday, September 17, Cardinal Cooke was principal celebrant and Father J. Carroll McHugh, S.S. provincial treasurer of the American Sulpicians, preached the homily. On the final evening, Thursday, September 18, Archbishop Bernardin was the principal celebrant and Father Dirvin was the homilist. A large number of bishops and priests concelebrated at these Masses.
It was indeed a memorable week, one which neither the Americans nor the Romans will ever forget.