I had dinner the other night with a friend who told me she was named after Mother Cabrini. I sent her this excerpt from my book. One of the best parts about the research was getting to know women like Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini better.
Of Note: I wrote this book so that it highlights at least one saint per day. Most of the saints and blesseds in this book are listed on their feast day. This entry is for November 13th, the date Mother Cabrini's feast is observed in the United States.
Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini
(Francesca Saverio Cabrini)
b. July 15, 1850, Sant’Angelo Lodigiano, Italy
d. December 22, 1917, Chicago, Illinois
Born in a small village in northern Italy,Frances Cabrini dreamed of becoming a missionary in China. By the time she arrived in America in 1889 she had founded numerous schools and orphanages in Italy and a religious order, the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She had also mastered the art of negotiating with Italy’s anticlerical government and a Church hierarchy opposed to the idea of women missionaries. Cabrini impressed John Joseph Scalabrini, who urged her to go to America where the Italian immigrants desperately needed support. Still hoping to go to China, Cabrini consulted Pope Leo XIII,209 who famously responded, “Not to the East, but to the West,” and so she accepted an invitation from the archbishop of New York to establish an orphanage there.
Cabrini arrived in New York with six Missionary Sisters. The next day, when she called on Archbishop Michael Corrigan, he had changed his mind about his invitation. He needed priests, not nuns, he said, and suggested that she return to Italy. Cabrini respectfully assured the archbishop that leaving was out of the question. He then directed her to the Sisters of Charity, who sheltered Cabrini and her companions for as long as they needed and introduced them to a more cordial side of the city. Despite their rocky start, Cabrini soon won Corrigan over. She learned that he had disagreed with an American-born countess, who had then withdrawn her financing for the orphanage. Cabrini reconciled all sides, and the orphanage was opened a few weeks later. She also started a free school in the neighborhood known as Little Italy and began catechism classes at the churches there.
Cabrini next assumed management of a hospital in Piscataway, New Jersey. This was the fi rst of a number of hospitals she named for Christopher Columbus, a subtle reminder of Italy’s contributions to America. She moved on to Chicago, New Orleans (where she arrived shortly after eleven Italian men had been lynched), Seattle(where she officially became a citizen of the United States), and Golden, Colorado(where her shrine draws 150,000 visitors a year). Cabrini also established foundations in South and Central America. In all, she founded sixty-seven institutions with almost no financial support from her Church. Blessed with a gift for bringing out generosity in others, she also shrewdly negotiated with landowners and contractors. Cabrini’s heart finally gave out in Chicago—she collapsed while wrapping Christmas presents at an orphanage. She died the following day and is buried at her shrine in New York. There are more shrines, but her true memorials are the schools, hospitals, and other institutions that bear her name. Mother Cabrini was canonized less than thirty years after her death, becoming the first United States citizen so honored. She was declared the Universal Patron of Immigrants in 1950. Her feast is observed on November 13 in the United States and on December 22 in the rest of the world. Members of her order, also known as the Cabrini Sisters, continue her work on six continents.
The Genius of Frances Cabrini:
Cabrini described the source of her strength: “The Holy Spirit is a sun whose light is reflected in just souls, a bottomless, shoreless ocean whose waters are beautiful, transparent, crystalline and life-giving, and flow continually and abundantly over souls who place no obstacle and do not oppose the Paraclete. Oh, the just souls who live in these saving waters are always happy, joyous, secure,peaceful, and full of trust and great confidence in God. They fear nothing and undertake all tasks with great courage.”
“I have the strength for everything through Him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13 (motto of Frances Cabrini)
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