Today is the Feast of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini! Best known for her work with schools, hospitals, and orphanages among immigrants in the United States—specifically Italian immigrants—and for founding the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart, Mother Cabrini is the patron saint of immigrants and has a world-famous shrine dedicated to her in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Past these basic facts, Mother Cabrini’s past is often overlooked.
– Mother Cabrini was one of eleven children, and one of only four to survive past adolescence. She was born prematurely and was weak for her whole life; despite this, she helped her parents until death and persevered to achieve her dream of serving Christ as a nun.
– Mother Cabrini began her adult life as a teacher, and was in fact rejected from joining the Daughters of the Sacred Heart due to her poor health; only after her diocese asked her to move to a new town and oversee an orphanage did she officially begin her path to the religious life.
– Mother Cabrini established the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in November of 1880—at an old Franciscan convent in Codogno, Italy
– While in Rome, working to solidify her new order and establish institutes, she met Bishop Giovanni Battista Scalabrini, who worked extensively with immigrants and set her on the road to the United States and the work for which she is perhaps most famous. While her original plan was to go east, to the Orient, to evangelize, Bishop Scalabrini asked her to instead go west, to New York City. In 1901 Bishop Scalabrini visited New York to lay the cornerstone of the St. Mary of Mount Carmel parish church.
– Despite not knowing English, Mother Cabrini moved to New York and founded a school and an orphanage while also teaching catechism at the parish of St. Joachim.
– After less than two years, when the Sisters were barely established in New York, Mother Cabrini began working to expand the order to Latin America and later Argentina, Paris, and London.
– Mother Cabrini took the oath of United States citizenship in Seattle, after expanding the order to Chicago and Denver.
I recommend visiting the Mother Cabrini Shrine on Interstate 70 heading west from Denver if you ever have the chance. The 22 foot statue of the Sacred Heart that crowns the mountain where the shrine sits is reached by climbing a staircase of the Stations of the Cross and is well worth the trip. A few years ago the statue was hit by lightening, shattering a couple of Christ’s fingers. It has since been repaired.
The grotto at the shrine modeled after Lourdes also houses a chapel dedicated to St. Francis Cabrini.
– St. Francis Cabrini was canonized in 1946 by Pop Pius XII. She was the first canonized United States citizen.
He lives with his lovely wife and eleven kids in northern Colorado.
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