MRS. SETON FOUNDS HER ORDER

The circumstance of a visit to Italy, whither she went in company with her dying husband, who, as a last resource, sought the mild climate of the South of Europe as his only chance of recovery, not only confirmed her in her previous intention, or desire, to become a Catholic, but acquired for her the enduring friendship of a high-minded and generous family of Leghorn, by name Fellici, to whose munificent assistance in her future work she was under the deepest obligations. At length, and after an exhausting mental conflict, rendered more distressing by the importunities and the anger of her relatives and friends, Mrs. Seton took the final step, and in the church of St. Peter, New York, in March 1805, she joined that Church to which it has been her happiness to render the greatest and most exalted services. By this last act of what her friends regarded as spiritual treason of the most flagrant kind, Mrs. Seton cut herself off for ever from all communion with them; and some time after she established in Baltimore, under the auspices of Bishop Carroll, and with the co-operation of those who knew her story and respected her character, a school for young ladies, in which she soon had the requisite number, including her own daughters, to whom she was the fondest but the wisest of mothers. But she was impelled to a fuller development of her own desire, which was to dedicate herself to the service of the poor; and how this desire was fulfilled is thus told by her biographer:—

About this time another circumstance took place which still more plainly indicated the will of God in reference to the good work. Mr. Cooper, who was then a student in St. Mary's Seminary, at Baltimore, intending, if such were the divine will, to prepare himself for the sacred ministry, possessed some property; and he was desirous of literally following the maxim of the Gospel:—'Go, sell what thou hast, and give it to the poor, and come, follow me.' One morning, immediately after receiving the holy communion, Mrs. Seton felt a strong inclination arise within her to dedicate herself to the care and instruction of poor female children, and to organise some plan for this purpose that might be continued after her death. She communicated this to the Rev. Mr. Dubourg. 'This morning,' she said, 'in my dear communion I thought, Dearest Saviour, if you would give me the care of poor little children, no matter how poor; and Mr. Cooper being directly before me at his thanksgiving, I thought—he has money, if he would but give it for the bringing up of poor little children, to know and love you!' Mr. Dubourg, joining his hands, observed that it was very strange; for Mrs. Seton had not mentioned the subject to anyone else. 'Mr. Cooper,' said he, 'spoke to me this very morning of his thoughts being all for poor children's instruction, and if he had somebody to do it he would give his money for that purpose; and he wondered if Mrs. Seton would be willing to undertake it.' The good priest was struck at the coincidence of their views, and he requested them each to reflect upon the subject for the space of a month, and then to acquaint him with the result. During this time there was no interchange of opinion between Mrs. Seton and Mr. Cooper in relation to their wishes; and at the expiration of it they both returned separately to Mr. Dubourg, renewing the sentiments they had expressed before, one offering a portion of his temporal means,(26) and the other her devoted services for the relief of the poor and suffering members of Christ. The providence of God in behalf of the American Church was so clearly indicated in the circumstances just related that little room was left for deliberation. Bishop Carroll having been informed of the design, gave his warmest approbation to it, in conjunction with the Rev. Francis Nagot, the saintly superior of St. Mary's Seminary; and the only question that now presented itself for consideration was in reference to the locality of the intended establishment.

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