The film, made for television, is a sincere biography of America’s first native-born Catholic saint, Elizabeth Bayley Seton. Born of a wealthy Protestant family in New York City in 1774, Elizabeth at age 19 was happily married to a wealthy businessman in the import trade.
Before long, though, she began to suffer a series of trials, misfortunes, and tragedies beginning with her husband’s loss of fortune and later his early death. She and her five children were initially rescued by kindly Italians (the Filicchi family) from which she discovered Roman Catholicism.
Her conversion took place at a time when Catholics were heavily persecuted in the United States. When a Huguenot relative complained that European Catholics wronged Huguenots, Elizabeth calmly replied that Catholics were equally persecuted in America. Gradually she was accepted by some family members, including her five children. Under the support of Bishop John Carroll, the only Catholic bishop in the USA, she began a school for girls in Maryland. While her achievements occurred, she sustained terrible heartbreaks: two of her children (both girls) died before they reached maturity. Tuberculosis took its toll.
Over time Elizabeth steadfastly began or influenced the growth of Catholic schools (the beginning of the parochial school system), orphanages, and hospitals. Non-Catholics were welcome. Elizabeth died of consumption (tuberculosis) at age 46 in 1821.
The acting is very good, and Kate Mulgrew shines in the lead role. In supporting roles, Lorne Greene and John Forsythe were effective as clergymen.