• Maryland

Obama gift to Pope Francis steeped in Maryland religious history

President Barack Obama has given Pope Francis a gift from Maryland: a 116-year-old key from the Emmitsburg home of Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first native-born American to be declared a saint.

The key once opened the door of her home, the Stone House, which now stands on the grounds of The National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton.


The key celebrates both His Holiness' and Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton's dedication to opening doors for the poor, sick and vulnerable, a White House spokesman said.

Obama presented the key upon the pope's arrival at the White House Wednesday.

"This gift is a fitting tribute," Rob Judge, executive director of the national shrine, said in a statement. He called the pope "a man who has been a strong advocate for those who are poor and marginalized."

"It is humbling to know that Pope Francis literally holds the key to Mother Seton's home, where we welcome tens of thousands of visitors every year," Judge said. "People of all faiths are drawn here to learn the story of her life and legacy."

Born in 1774 in New York, Seton was a wife, mother and widow who founded both a girls' school and congregation of religious Sisters, the first of their kind in the United States.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of her canonization by Pope Paul VI in September 1975.