With Fearless Trust

Elizabeth Seton, Filicchi portraitREADER 1:  1817—Just two weeks before her 43rd birthday, Elizabeth Seton said a warm, probably tearful goodbye to two of her Sisters who were leaving their Emmitsburg home for their new mission in New York City. Sisters Cecilia O’Conway and Felicity Brady would stop first in Philadelphia, where Rose White would join them.

Elizabeth, a native New Yorker, knew the challenges that the others could not have imagined. New York at the turn of the 19th century was a daunting place for those caught in the grip of poverty, or those who were new to the country. There were few “safety nets” to relieve the suffering of people with few resources.

READER 2: And the Sisters themselves? Imagine the emotions of their leave-taking. Surely they were curious, excited and a bit anxious about what they were about to undertake. Perhaps Elizabeth calmed their fears with a reminder of her words when she left New York for Baltimore in 1803: “You know that I go fearless for you know where, and how strong is my trust.”

As we recall our own moments of leaving familiar people and places, letting go, saying our good-byes, let us pray for the grace of courage and trust.


You, O God, are all we have; you give us all that we need.
You hold our lives in your hands.
May we go to meet our grace without fear; may our trust in you be strong.

Pause for a few moments of quiet or instrumental music.
Notice the feelings and thoughts that arise in you.

Full Charity – A Community Grace

 READER 1: Elizabeth modeled genuine love and heartfelt concern for all her Sisters, whether they lived in close quarters or were far distant from one another. She asked them, and she asks us today: “Am I indeed in full charity with all?” because this, she reminds us, is a “community grace.

READER 2: Imagine those first weeks after the Sisters’ arrival in New York, far from the spacious countryside of Maryland. Imagine the summer heat, the noise and filth of New York’s streets, poor orphans waiting to be cared for, the promised home not ready. All this, while the three women, each unique in personality and talents, were trying to be faithful to their life of community and prayer. More than likely, there were many moments of stress, tension, frustration and misunderstanding.

As we recall the times when we have known, suffered or caused disagreement, division and conflict in our communities, families, workplaces, neighborhoods, nation, and world, let us pray for the grace of “full charity with all.”

 RESPONSE (all):

God is Love, and all who live in love, live in God, and God in them.
Forgive us our offenses, as we forgive those who offend us.
Let us bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ.

Pause for a few moments of quiet or instrumental music.
Notice the feelings and thoughts that arise in you.

Sharing: Share, if you wish, any reflections that these readings bring to your mind and heart

Intercessions: (Offer your spontaneous prayers for all in need.) Response: God of Love, we trust that you hear and answer us.

PRAYER (all):
God of the ages, we praise your faithful love. Christ of the now, we seek to meet our grace.
Spirit of tomorrow, we trust your sustaining presence.
Whatever the risk, whatever Providence provides,
we stand secure in your love.
In your hands is the mission of Charity. We are blessed to tend its fire.
As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be,
may your love press us forward, may Charity impel us on!

—SCNY 200th Anniversary Prayer

CLOSING SONG:                
Ubi caritas et amor, ubi caritas, Deus ibi est.
Live in charity and steadfast love,
live in charity, God will dwell with you.


—Prayer by Regina Bechtle, SC, parts adapted from “Five-Day Spiritual Journey – 1817,”
with thanks to Maria Iglesias, SC and Mary McCormick, SC