Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

We visited the shrine St Elizabeth Ann Seton this morning. Here are some views.

On our way out we spoke for a few minutes with a habitless old sister… One of the Daughters of Charity. She mentioned among other things that they had 8… 8… novices for the US. Her class had been 51. Then she said she had been to hear a speech at Fordham. She saw several groups of young sisters all in habits, all happy! She opined that maybe they need that now, but perhaps they’ll grow out of it. “Besides,” she said, “there was this article in America Magazine…”


No connection for her between happy, young, habits and vocations.

You might say a prayer to the Saint for religious vocations.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Jacob says:

    Does the Bux prayer apply to barely-there religious orders as well as senior prelates?

    I will pray for that sister and all her brethren.

  2. Richard F. says:

    I don’t want to sound mean, Father, but perhaps it might be better if just we let these “progressive” orders of clueless sisters die out. Our prayers will be better put to use in praying for happy, young sisters in habits in new orders.

  3. Pseudomodo says:


  4. That photo does look like its waiting for a caption “Prominent Priest Blogger Martyred by being impaled on a Flagpole”!!

  5. Riverside says:

    Perhaps letting them die is good and perhaps it is not so good…think about it. Many of these orders already have existing educational and charitable insitutions and properties. Rather than new orders having to beg for new places why not just use what already there. I would think that in no more than 10 years most of the libs will be on walkers anyway. What a difference could be made in instituions that already exist with orthodox religious running old orders! Most “Catholic Tradition” colleges now run by Sister Joan Pantsuit could become “Actual Catholic” colleges run by real Sisters.

  6. dymphna says:

    I have soft spot for the Daughters since they taught me in high school but it’s for the best that they die out.

  7. Ave Maria says:

    The habitless ones that frrequent Fordham and love America magazine and the National Catholic Distorter (reporter) are dying out. They do not understand why. NO GRACE IN LIBERALISM!

    Only the ones who will live their charism and not be ashamed to be seen as Brides of Christ with their holy habits will flourish.

  8. Boniface says:

    Fr. Z-

    NO way! I was just there with my Youth Group this very weekend! If I would have known you were coming, I would have waited a little longer! I made some comments about it at When I was there, we sung “Sing a New CHurch” at the Sunday Mass.


  9. Inqiusitor says:

    That sanctuary is crying out for the Usus Antiquior!!! Get the big six up there quick!

  10. Daniel Muller says:

    Hmm … she was a Daughter of Charity, not a Sister of Charity? The Sisters of Charity, as a prominent priest friend put it, “wigged out five minutes before Vatican II.” The Daughters of Charity I have met in Dallas wore a very modified habit, but a habit nonetheless. And they actually did charitable work.

    I hope that some of the “old” orders are reformed, but on a purely human level I pity those called to reform them.

  11. Jerry Boyd says:

    The old habitless orders are dying out…just like old hippies. The orders that are growing, thank God, are the young, vibrant, happy, habit wearing variety. Their enthusiasm extends well beyond wearing a habit and they certainly don’t have the sourpuss demeanor of those of the liberal pursuasion. Doubt that the new ones read much America or National Catholic (?) Distorter either.

  12. Dan says:

    Had you gone into the sacristy, you would have seen a sheet taped to one of the tables with several liturgy directives on it. The first is that Mass will only be celebrated on the main altar, the second is, and I quote, “No Tridentine Masses will be celebrated at the shrine.”

  13. Brian2 says:

    Hey Fordham isn’t all bad. They have some real good Jesuits there in philosophy (Koterski) and theology (Leinhard, and not least of all Cardinal Dulles).

  14. John Enright says:

    Eamonn Gaines said “That does look like its waiting for a caption ‘Prominent Priest Blogger Martyred by being impaled on a Flagpole’!!”

    I shudder to think! But watch “The Omen.” Boo!

  15. Geoff says:

    I’ll be the unpopular one. I had the privilege, and I do mean privilege, of working with the Daughters during seminary. No one forces them to stay; they take no perpetual vows; and yet many of them have stayed on for decades, doing jobs for which they could be making big money out in the “real world”, or doing thankless jobs that no one would do if it weren’t for them. The vast majority of them are not dour sourpusses, but cheerful women doing their best.

    Yes, I wish they’d all wear habits, and yes, some of them have doubtless never found their way out of the Sixties. So pray for them. They deserve respect and not death wishes.

  16. Miss Jackie says:

    I used to volunteer with one of the retirment homes at the Shrine (its a HUGE place 2 retiremnet homes, a retreat house, the Mother house, and the shrine all connected). The nuns are mainly very nice women, they just dont understand. The REALLY REALLY old nuns in the religous retiremnt home do understand and are sad becuase of it.

  17. TNCath says:

    Daniel Muller: Yes, I think they are the Sisters of Charity of Emmitsburg, not the Daughters of Charity.

    That poor sister has been brainwashed by 40 years of renewal-adaptation, endless workshops and meetings, and lots of “introspection” and “discernment” about their lives. She has been told numerous times by her superiors that the direction their order is heading is one of having “completed their mission” and that it is now up to the laity to take over.

    What’s really sad to do is to go to the nursing homes of these orders where sisters in their 80’s and 90’s are still trying to maintain some semblance of religious life. They have suffered in silence for so many years. Very heartbreaking.

  18. TJM says:

    Father Z, I bet you had to bite your tongue on that one. They just don’t get it. Because you’re traveling I wanted to give you a heads up.Over at Whispers in the Loggia there is a post about a barn-burner speech that Bishop Martino gave in which he laid out the USCCB and “Catholics” for Obama. It’s a stunner. All
    the best, TOm

  19. Charivari Rob says:


    “That photo does look like its waiting for a caption “Prominent Priest Blogger Martyred by being impaled on a Flagpole”!!”

    That detail of the photo didn’t register with me until Pseudomodo said so. Personally, it looks like the opening frame of a Monty Python-esque sequence:

    Artistic background of some many-columned cathedral, images of devout people at prayer. Faint sound of chant in the background.
    Patriarchal face in the sky, muttering to self, “What are they talking about?”
    Sistine Chapel – like Godly hand, index finger extended, reaches down, opens top of Father Z.’s head as if on a hinge.
    Hand rummages inside head, extracting and discarding items in turn – camera phone, biretta, digital camcorder, passport, cookbook, full set of sequined polyester vestments, etc…
    Finally extracts reference book, quickly pages through it.
    “Aha! So that’s what that prayer really says!”

  20. opey124 says:

    We asked St. Elizabeth to intercede for us often since we are home schoolers.
    What is the pin on your lapel? Great picture!

  21. That Shrine is begging for a TLM…

  22. Charivari Rob says:

    All kidding aside (that’d be a change for me)…

    Prayer is always a good place to start.

    If you love, value, appreciate what religious sisters have done, let me urge you to go beyond the prayer and do a little something (or more than a little something) to show it. There are many of thousands of sisters (retired or still full-time in ministry) who would dearly love to be remembered, thought of, supported, visited, etc… Especially so when you consider the demographics of many orders, aging sisters being supported by fewer and fewer younger sisters to provide for them or take care of them.

    Think of it when your diocese has special collections for retired religious, missions, propogation of the faith, catholic schools. Go to their fundraisers and buy a raffle ticket and a plate of brownies.

    It doesn’t need to be about money, either.

    If there were Sisters who were and are so important to you, let them know! Write that sister and let her know how much she has meant. Don’t let “I don’t know where she is now – they closed the convent in our parish” be an excuse. If you write to an order’s province house or motherhouse, they will usually forward it or let a sister know someone is trying to reach them. As a sensible precaution, they don’t give out Sisters’ addresses.

    See if you can volunteer your time to support their ministry or their retired sisters. It can mean a great deal just to volunteer once a month to drive sisters to their doctor appointments.

    Just visit! Share your time and love! The retired sisters can get a huge boost from having a visitor and a little attention paid to them – just like anyone else in a nursing home or retirement home. That’s especially true when you consider they don’t have children of their own and many have outlived their parents and siblings.

  23. Marysann says:

    Father, I hope that the sister to whom you spoke was a “Sister” of Charity and not a “Daughter” of Charity. When I was growing up, our little parish did not have a school, but we had the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent De Paul whose motherhouse was in Emmittsburg, Maryland to teach us the faith. In those days they still wore the beautiful white coronets, and long blue habits that we associate with the great saints of their community such as St. Catherine Laboure, to whom our Blessed Mother gave the Miraculous Medal. These sisters are also well known to students of the battle of Gettysburg because of their prominence in photographs as they tended to the wounded from both sides. These wonderful sisters loved us, and we loved them, and they taught us the truths of our faith. I have never had to correct anything that they taught me. Our Blessed Mother loved this community greatly, and she protected it during the crisis in nineteenth century France. If indeed you were speaking to a “Daughter”, please let us all pray to our Lady to intercede for this community that it will return to the ideals of its great founders St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac.

  24. Fr. A says:

    They are DAUGHTERS of Charity (St. Vincent de Paul), not SISTERS of Charity. They united with the French group a long, long time ago. They started out as Sisters of Charity, but became Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul.

  25. Mary Jane says:

    How lovely! The Shrine, that is – not the flagpole growing out of Father’s head. At least they haven’t ripped out all the side altars. That was done in lots of churches in the years of enthusiasm. And no matter what the note on the sacristy bulletin board says, times are changing.

  26. S. from NC says:

    The Daughters of Charity are closely associated with the congreation of the mission. AKA the Vincentians. One of the most liberal orders in existence. I am not surprised to see her ‘habitless’. For what its worth ive never seen a vincentian priest wear clerics outside of mass. And ive known 4 or 5.

  27. Larry says:

    Some of the oldest and foremerly strongest congregations of women and religious orders fell for the psycho babel of the ’60s. I don’t think that many of them even think about the fact that their orders are dying because of their mode of dress. That is sad. Unfortuneately it is not simply their clothes that changed but their whole understanding of the Catholic Church. The newer congregations and olders ones that did wake up are growing. Certainly if these older sisters/daughters or whatever woke up they too could find themselves in a new springtime for their orders, but I fear that it is a case of “putting new wine in old skins.” Pray for them because they do need prayer.

  28. I often wonder if these nuns realize that without habits they are not visible as nuns. Out of sight, Out of mind. There are many reasons why these Orders have declined but for starters I would suggest that likely most people are no longer aware that they exist.

  29. Iggy says:

    Take this one step further…why do some priests chose NOT to wear their clerical garb away from the parish? I often wonder why our pastor immediately gets in his jeans after Mass and always when he goes into town to shop, etc. I would think that having a Catholic priest visible to the public would be a good for evangelizing…one never knows when someone needs a priest to talk to.

    Just thought I’d ask if someone had an answer or thought.

    I find it wonderful to see young priests in cassocks! They seem so comfortable with who they are…

  30. David Osterloh says:

    I totally agree Larry just check out the new link for the Precious Blood Sisters that they just sent in a news letter this week, when it first opens there is a succession of pictures at the top, one elderly nun wearing a veil, the rest just look like kindly old ladies, not a young face in site, but they are modern, one of my strongest memories of the CPPS sisters is being taught by them in the first three grades, Minster Local schools was a public school but 8 nuns still taught there in 1965, and they wore real habits and had real nun names, Sister Mary Alphonsene, Sister Mary Ruth, and our elementary Principal Sister Mary Alicia, (reverently known as Big Al). They used to live in a convent right across the street from the elementary, still remember when the convent was torn down in 1970 to make way for a condo complex, the 3 remaining sisters were given a double unit in the deal, watched it go down from my 5th grade classroom window, almost shocking to see the chapel exposed to daylight.
    there is a picture in the museum at the old mother house and relic shrine near here showing most of the sisters (approximately 1930’s) at the new mother house, over 300 sisters stood and sat for a group portrait, now maybe 100 left and most are quite elderly, the mother house is now a nursing facility, quite sad, maybe the Dominicans will need a new convent someday

  31. a catechist says:

    Where’s the tabernacle? I couldn’t spot it. Could that be why the ’62 Mass is not be celebrated there?

    Love the communion rail….

  32. MSM Student says:

    There’s a beautiful story about the Daughters of Charity. When Our Lady appeared to St. Bernadette at Lourdes there was a promise that if the Sisters of Charity stayed true to the rule of St. Vincent then a new community from over seas would be added to them. Ten years later, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton founded the Daughters of Charity in Emmitsburg.

    I think there is still hope for this community. Some of their younger sisters are seeking the habit. And some of their sisters wear a modified habit. As with all struggling communities, renewal from within must also take place.

  33. Marysann says:

    Dear MSM Student, thank you for reminding us about how Mother Seton’s American sisters became part of the Daughters of Charity, but I want to correct a few details. This a not a story, but a true event. When our Blessed Mother appeared to St. Catherine Laboure in 1830, she told her to tell her spiritual director, a priest who held a high position in the Vincentian order with authority over the Daughters, that a group of sisters would ask to join the them. Our Lady said that this was highly irregular, but that it was her will that the group be accepted. Thus the American Sisters of Charity joined the Daughters of Charity in 1849.

    I hope that you are correct about hope for the Daughters undergoing a renewal. These sisters taught me well, and I will always be grateful to them.

  34. When I was in line at Yankee stadium, I witnessed a sister in what may or may not be considered a habit (I would have labeled it a conservative dress, especially with the omitting of any form of headcovering besides a bun), speaking to some seminarians. She made a comment about how she didn’t understand why the new vocations preferred those orders with more conservative dress. I resisted the urge to explain.

  35. There are more than 450 Daughters of Charity here in the Philippines. All of them wear habits, as do the vast majority of religious women in the country.

    Strictly speaking the DCs are not religious but members of a Society of Apostolic Life who renew their vows each year on the Feast of the Annunciation.

    I’ve looked at a number of the websites of the Daughters of Charity and it would seem that it is the norm for sisters to wear a habit.

  36. ‘Women religious’ rather than ‘religious women’ would be a better order of words in what I’ve just posted.

  37. John says:

    Your post reminds of the time I spent three days as a guest of some very gracious retired progressive nuns. The biggest impression I had was a huge sense of loss in the empty but immaculate halls. Some things I observed were:

    – A beautiful historical church “wreckovated” to 1970s fads. Then later abandoned in favor of a “gathering” room.
    -Little evidence of joint community life or common purpose. “Community” seemed to consist of independent individuals.
    -Only one woman in the novitiate.
    -No habits since the early 1970s. No mother superior, but a “steering commitee”.
    -Vague mission statements, all on environmental themes.
    -A mix of very progressive Catholic and New Age reading materials.

    There were also pressing needs. Many sisters needed rides to the hospital as well as simple companionship. The Order did not appear to have strong identity in the local community for a generation. This has limited outside volunteer pool. In addition, leadership by commitee with discontinued obediance vow did not appear to be effeciently utililizing the abilities of the able bodied nuns.

    These nuns need our prayers and support. Most were slowly duped into wrecking their orders. As Fahter Groschell stated, the militant wreckers often left religious life after the train wreck.

  38. Miss Jackie says:

    catecist- The tabernacle is to the left of the main alter. There are two side alters, one of St Joseph on the right and one on the left of Mary. Marys alter is where the tabernacle is placed and is very visible.

    MSM Student- How are you enjoying the Mount? Im an ’04 grad. Its a wonderful place!

  39. MSM Student says:


    Thanks for the corrections– I had only heard in passing and was struggling to remember the details.

    Miss Jackie,

    I love the Mount! It’s a great place and I’m blessed to be here. The University side has struggled with Catholic Identity, but I honestly believe it’s on the uprise. The theology department… eh, we won’t really talk about it. But, this is truly a holy mountain and I wouldn’t dream of going anywhere else.

    -MSM Student

  40. TJM says:

    It’s really tragic that success was turned into failure in just a few short decades. I once read somewhere, “the more the Church becomes like the world
    the less influence it will have on people’s lives.” I think there’s a lot of wisdom in that statement. The Church should be counter-cultural. After all, I
    think many of us would agree that the popular culture today is pretty sick. Although I think I understand Vatican Council II’s rationale for asking
    Orders to review their charism and renew themselves, I suspect the abandoning of a common prayer life, distrinctive religious dress,etc. was not what the Council
    Fathers had in mind. Tom

  41. Miss Jackie says:

    MSM Student- That is great to hear. It started on its upward struggle about the time I entered, I think a large part to the wonderful chaplin Fr Ray. A true pastor, always kind but not afraid to lay the smack down :) You dont have to tell me about the theology dept. I was a theo major. I know all the usual suspects ;-)

  42. Ohio Annie says:

    A while ago I found this article on the changes in the Church and one cause for it. I thought it was very interesting.

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