Encounter Emmitsburg




Emmitsburg, Maryland is a beautiful small town just 90 minutes from the Washington D.C. area. Nestled at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, it is home to two major Catholic shrines which host thousands of visitors each year and is the perfect setting for a short pilgrimage of faith. Encounter Jesus as you walk in the footsteps of the first native-born U.S. citizen to be canonized as a saint. Click on the photo to the left to download a handy summary of this page to take with you on your pilgrimage.



“Go to Him with faith, love, and confidence - He will help.
Fill yourself with His spirit and He Himself will govern.” St. Elizabeth Ann Seton

(Photo source: Emmitsburg, MD Panorama from US-15 rest area by Vasiliy Meshko is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0. The image can be found here.)

Emmitsburg, Maryland is a beautiful small town just 90 minutes from the Washington DC area. Nestled at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, it is home to two major Catholic shrines which host thousands of visitors each year and is the perfect setting for a short pilgrimage of faith.

Places to Visit


  • The Basilica and National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton is one of the top eight Catholic pilgrimage destinations in the U.S. A beautiful place to learn more about the first native-born U.S. citizen to be canonized. Explore the shrine museum (no cost), visit the home where she lived, the places she prayed, and the where she taught. Pray and ask for intercession at her tomb, learn about the Civil War Sisters, and take time to walk through St. Joseph Cemetery and pray for those who have died. The museum has a scavenger hunt for younger children. (Photo source: Interior of the Basilica of the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton by Farragutful is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0. The image can be found here.)

  • Emmitsburg is the home of Mount St. Mary's University and the National Shrine Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes. This is truly a beautiful site. Set in beautiful scenery surrounded by woods, you can walk alongside Christ during his Passion as you pray the stations of the cross, climb up the steps to Calvary as you reach Christ crucified, and stop and pray, asking our lady's intercession at the Grotto of our Lady of Lourdes.  (Photo source: Visitfrederick.org. The image can be found here.)

  • Visit the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial just next door to the Seton Shrine to pray for those who made the ultimate sacrifice while trying to save others. In 1809, Mother Seton opened a boarding school for girls on this site. The school later became St. Joseph's College, one of America's first Catholic women's colleges. The Daughters of Charity closed the College in 1973 and sold the buildings and more than 100 acres to the Federal Government in 1979. (currently closed due to COVID-19) (Photo source: usfa.fema.gov. The image can be found here.)

  • To take in the beauty of God's creation, visit Cunningham Falls State Park. Surrounded by the beautiful Catoctin Mountains, this park is home to Maryland's highest cascading waterfall. A hiking trail and a short walking path both lead to the falls where visitors enjoy picturesque views year-round. Other hiking trails of various difficulty levels weave through the park. (Photo source: "Cunningham Falls" by 1sock is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Plan your pilgrimage/visit

Here are the top 7 suggestions for planning your trip.

  1. Check out the websites to the places you want to visit. Each website has all the information you could possibly need to plan a visit: COVID restrictions, hours of operation, admission fees, etc.
  2. Make a schedule for your day
    • Schedules will vary depending on the places you want to visit. If you are just visiting the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Shrine, you can find sample schedules on their website, but if you are visiting more than one site, you can find a sample schedule/ideas in the Resources section below. 
  3. Before heading out on your pilgrimage, take some time to learn about the places you're visiting. For example: read a short bio about St. Elizbeth Ann Seton, look at some pictures of Cunningham Falls and get excited about what you will see. 
  4. Be prepared and make a packing list. Pack your favorite snacks, lunch, sunscreen, hat, picnic blanket, water, umbrella, printouts, camera, money, journal, pen, bible, etc. 
  5. Keep the pilgrimage alive in the car: play Christian music, listen to an audio book, or a podcast. (See Resources below)
  6. Print directions, maps, or anything you'll need for your trip. We even have a scavenger hunt! Adults and children alike love a good scavenger hunt. The St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Shrine has one on their website, but you can also find another one below in the Resources section.
  7. Most importantly, don't forget to pray, have fun, and make memories. You can find a travel prayer in the Resource section below. 

Places to stop on the way home!


Stop at Stavros Pizza for dinner!. Small hole in the wall, but they have great pizza! This is a nice place to stop to continue making memories. Closed Mon. & Tues. Open Wed. - Sat. Noon to 8:00pm and Sun. Noon to 7:30pm. Call for updates on dining in.


Catoctin Mountain Orchard: You can buy delicious freshly baked pies or frozen to bake at home, fruits and veggies, snacks and other goods.


Gateway Candyland is a great spot to stop on the way home for all sorts of sweets. Great ice cream and a huge variety of candy.



Tying it all together

The idea of pilgrimage dates back thousands of years. The purpose of pilgrimage is not simply going on a tour, rather it is meant to be an experience of faith. From the time that the pilgrim leaves home until they return, they listen to what God may be calling them to in their lives. A pilgrim should always return home a little different than when they left.  Perhaps reflect on these questions:

  • What was the most inspiring thing that you saw or heard today?
  • Mother Seton called the Emmitsburg area the “the Valley of Blessings.” List some of the blessings from your pilgrimage.
  • Is there anything about St. Elizabeth Ann Seton's life that you could apply to your life?
  • How might you grow in your faith life or relationship with Christ as a result of this pilgrimage today?


Travel Prayer - PDF

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Bio - PDF

Small Group Time (in the cat or during lunch)
Take some time to read St. Elizabeth Ann Seton's favorite Psalm. Read it together and reflect upon why this might be her favorite. 

  • Was there a line that caught your attention?
  • What does it mean that he restores my soul?
  • What does it mean to not fear?

Books and Podcasts

  • Audiobooks.com: Elizabeth Seton: American Saint by Catherine O'donnell
  • The Saintcast Podcast: #37 January 5, 2007 Short Biography Starts at 21:40 - Run time is 13 minutes
  • RCSpirituality Podcast: Sitting in the Side Pew: A retreat guide on St. Elizabeth Ann Seton November 12, 2013. This is a guided retreat with readings from St. Elizabeth's writings, a bio, scripture, etc. - Run time is 1 hour and 9 minutes.

Sample Schedule and Notes
There is so much to see in this area, that it would be difficult to accomplish in one day! Obviously, each site could require a day to see everything. However, a family or a group of teens may want to move briskly to catch the highlights and then move on.

  • A small group can visit the Grotto shrine, walk the stations path, visit Calvary, and pray in the Grotto in about 60 to 90 minutes.
  • At The Seton Shrine a family could skim through the museum, walk the grounds, to see the Stone House, the White House (a.k.a. St. Joseph's House), and St. Joseph Cemetery in about 60 to 90 minutes.
  • Consider going to confession, attending daily Mass, or going to adoration either at the Grotto Shrine or the Seton Shrine.
    • St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Shrine Mass: M-F 1:30pm and Sunday 11:00am and 1:30pm
    • St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Shrine Confession & Adoration: M-F & Sunday 12:15-1:15pm
    • National Shrine Grotto Mass: Daily at 12:00pm in Mary's Chapel, Sat. & Sun. at the Grotto at 12:00pm and Sun. at 2:00pm in Spanish
    • National Shrine Grotto Confession & Adoration: Sat. & Sun. 10:45am
  • If your group would benefit from some outdoor time, the hike to Cunningham Falls is a great option. It is a 1.1-mile round trip hike on a heavily traveled path to see one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the area. Plan to do the hike early to avoid crowds. The park does have an entrance fee. Round trip hike and time to see the falls is around 90 minutes
  • Sample Schedule - PDF

Other restaurants in the area


To view this map on Google, click here.


Other Restaurants in the area. To view this map on Google, click here.