Mother Seton is a major presence in Emmitsburg

Firefighters Memorial and Fire Academy are also here

Trips: road trips, regional events

January 29, 2004|By Joanne E. Morvay | Joanne E. Morvay,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

In northernmost Frederick County sits Emmitsburg, an unassuming little town perhaps best known for the role it has played in the American Roman Catholic Church.

Emmitsburg owes much to the Catholic refugees who came to the area looking for a place to practice their faith.

Father John DuBois, founder of St. Mary's College, invited recently widowed Elizabeth Ann Seton to move to the area and begin her life anew. Father DuBois also established a church and a replica of the French Grotto of Lourdes in the nearby hills.

Today, Emmitsburg is the home of the shrine honoring Mother Seton, the first American-born saint. Visitors make pilgrimages to the National Shrine Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, established in the forest where Mother Seton walked and prayed.

People of all faiths visit here. Some stop on their way to Gettysburg, since Emmitsburg was a staging area, camp and hospital for Union troops fighting in that epic Civil War battle. Others pause as they head to Ski Liberty, just over the state line in Fairfield, Pa.

What to see

National Shrine of Elizabeth Ann Seton (333 South Seton Ave., 301-447-6606): The shrine has a museum that tells Mother Seton's life story and offers religious services in the Basilica. Seton, recently widowed, came to Baltimore from New York in 1808 (the Mother Seton House is at 600 N. Paca St.) and moved to Emmitsburg with her children in 1809. She soon founded a religious sisterhood and a school. The American Daughters of Charity carry on Seton's vision today. The school, now called Mother Seton School, is the oldest parochial school in the United States. Seton died in 1821 and was beatified by the Roman Catholic Church in 1963. The shrine was built in 1965, and Mother Seton's remains were then moved there. She was canonized in 1975.

The site includes the original stone house (circa 1750) where Seton founded her religious community as well as the house where she began her school. The shrine is open 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. every day but Monday. Religious services are offered on Sundays and other occasions. The shrine closes the last week in January and the first week in February.

The National Shrine Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes (off U.S. 15, 301-447-5318): The grotto is one of the oldest American replicas of the revered French Grotto of Lourdes, where Saint Bernadette is believed to have seen and talked with the Virgin Mary. On Sundays, Mass is celebrated along with other sacraments and blessings. The grotto is open every day from 7 a.m. to dusk. The Mass schedule varies; see www.msmary.edu/grotto.

National Fallen Firefighters Memorial (U.S. Fire Administration, 16825 S. Seton Ave., 301-447-1000): Dedicated to the men and women "who have lost their lives in the very act of saving others," the memorial stands on the campus of the National Fire Academy. The long brick walk to the memorial commemorates some of the worst fires in U.S. history, the bricks inscribed with the names of firefighters who died and with messages from their comrades and families. Plaques bearing the names of firefighters killed since the memorial was established in 1981 encircle an eternal flame and bronze Maltese cross. Another plaque is inscribed with the names of firefighters killed Sept. 11, 2001. Visitors can seek comfort at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Chapel.

The memorial and chapel are open to the public during daytime hours year-round. The academy draws firefighters and emergency management personnel from across the country who come to hone their skills.

Shopping

Emmitsburg Antique Mall (1 Chesapeake Ave., 301-447-6471): If you want to collect it, you'll find it here. Dishes, patriotic memorabilia, books, toys, linens, jewelry, souvenir items, political buttons, maps, furniture, art -- the display is eclectic and endless. Antique doesn't mean ancient -- a Welcome Back Kotter puzzle and Jackie Collins paperbacks were among the items.

Callie's Collectibles (24 W. Main St., 301-447-6700): A good mix of antiques and reproductions with interesting finds like watercolors of the area by local artists, primitive decoys and well-loved furniture that spend much of its previous life with nearby farm families.

Black Cat General Store (2 W. Main St., 301-447-3370): The two large display windows overlooking the town square brim with antique toys and children's furniture as well as vintage advertising and other collectibles.

Where to eat

Carriage House Inn (200 South Seton Ave., 301-447-2366): Continental cuisine in a quaint historic setting. Lunch and dinner served seven days a week along with a brunch buffet Sundays.

Ott House Pub & Restaurant (5 W. Main St., 301-447-2625): Popular hangout for local folk, Mount Saint Mary's College students and firefighters attending the Fire Academy. Live music on weekends. Menu is pub grub at its finest.

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