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Pope John Paul II Church receives and enthrones relic of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

Elizabeth Seton was the first United States-born woman to be canonized.

Pope Paul VI canonized her in 1975 with the words, “Yes, Venerable Brothers and beloved sons and daughters! Elizabeth Ann Seton is a saint!”

With those words, the journey to recognize one of the most influential Catholic women in the United States as a saint ended. Her order, the Sisters of Charity, founded at Emitsburg, Md., spread throughout the growing nation to provide medical care and help for the poor and orphaned, and to educate the young.

Catholics have venerated the tombs and bones of the saints since the apostolic times. Catholic Answers Original Encyclopedia describes relics thus: “The word ‘relics’ comes from the Latin reliquice …,” which, before the propagation of Christianity was an object, notably part of the body or clothes, that remain as a memorial of a departed saint. To some extent, the veneration of relics is a primitive instinct, and is associated with many other religions in addition to Christianity.  

The relic was donated to the parish in December 2011, when Mr. Holloway, a non-Catholic, called and said he wanted to make a donation.

He described how he came to possess this relic. During the late 1970s, he built a tavern close to Seton Hall University, called Seton’s Habit. The restaurateur wanted memorabilia from the university to adorn his tavern, so he went to an auction at the university where they were clearing a building for demolition. This relic was released at the time of her beatification in 1975, and was given to him by someone who thought he was, 1) a Catholic, and 2) devoted to “Mother Seton,” as her devotees called her.

After selling the restaurant, Mr. Holloway retired and moved to Pagosa Springs, a town he loved to visit when he was younger. He brought with him the relic and the documentation that verified that it was authentic. When he called the parish he explained that he was getting older and was divesting himself of things that would better serve others. Thus, he offered the parish the relic, which Fr. Don Malin readily and joyfully accepted. When Bishop Isern visited in January 2012 on the feast of the Mother of God, he enthroned the relic.

Another notable relic in our possession is a piece of the True Cross, which is embedded in the altar stone at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church. Although the authentication papers are not in our possession, Fr. John Bowe testified that he had seen them.

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