Saturday, November 13, 2010

Happy feast day of Saint Francis Xavier Cabrini

How much there can be in a name is most clearly shown in you who was called Frances Xavier, thus expressing your wonderful missionary spirit.
An emigrant from Lombardi in Italy, you in turn took care of immigrants.
You founded the Missionary Sisters and became the first American citizen to be canonized a Saint. Make us dedicated servants of God like yourself
and care for the immigrants who need your help. Amen.

Saint Francesa Saverio Cabrini (July 15, 1850, Sant'Angelo Lodigiano, Lombardy – December 22, 1917), also called Mother Cabrini, was the first American citizen to be canonized by the Roman Catholic Church.

Patron Saint of immigrants, hospital administrators

The Pope sent Cabrini to New York City on March 31, 1889, to help the Italian immigrants there "Not to the East but to the West". There, she obtained the permission of Archbishop Michael Corrigan to found an orphanage, which is located in West Park, Ulster County, New York, today and is known as Saint Cabrini Home, the first of 67 institutions she founded in New York, Chicago, Des Plaines, Seattle, New Orleans, Denver, Golden, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and in countries throughout South America and Europe. Long after her death, the Missionary Sisters would achieve Mother Cabrini's goal of being a missionary to China.

In only a short time, after much social and religious upheaval there, the sisters left China and, subsequently, a Siberian placement. The sisters opened Columbus Extension Hospital (later renamed Saint Cabrini Hospital) in the heart of the city’s Italian neighborhood on the Near West Side. Both hospitals eventually closed near the end of the 20th century. Their foundress’s name lives on via Chicago's Cabrini Street.

Cabrini was naturalized as a US citizen in 1909.


Mother Cabrini died of complications from dysentery at age 67 in Columbus Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, on December 22, 1917. By that time, she had founded 67 missionary institutions to serve the sick and poor and train additional nuns to carry on the work. Her body was originally interred at Saint Cabrini Home, an orphanage she founded in West Park, Ulster County, New York.

In 1931, her body was exhumed, found to be partially incorrupt and is now enshrined under glass in the altar at St. Frances Cabrini Shrine, part of Mother Cabrini High School, at 701 Fort Washington Avenue, in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. The street to the west of the shrine was renamed Cabrini Boulevard in her honor. Another Mother Cabrini Shrine can be found in Golden, Colorado.

Cabrini was beatified on November 13, 1938, and canonized on July 7, 1946, by Pope Pius XII. St. Frances Xavier Cabrini is the patron saint of immigrants. Her beatification miracle involved the restoration of sight to a child who had been blinded by excess silver nitrate in its eyes. Her canonization miracle involved the healing of a terminally ill nun. The date fixed at the universal level for Mother Cabrini's feast day is November 13, the day of her beatification. In the pre-1970 calendar, still used by some, the date was December 22, the day of her birth to heaven, and so the day normally chosen for a saint's feast day.

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini

Patroness of Immigrants

Maria Francesca Cabrini was born in Lombardy Italy on July 15, 1850, the youngest of thirteen children. She was a small and frail little girl with curly, blond hair. Because of her delicate condition, she was schooled at home by her sister Rosa, who was fifteen years her senior. When Frances was 18 years old she tried to become a religious, but was denied entrance because of her poor health. She remained with her parents until their death and then worked with her brothers and sisters on a farm. In 1872, after recovering from smallpox contracted while visiting the sick and the poor, she was asked to teach at a girls' school. After six years of teaching, she followed the request of her bishop and founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart to care for the poor children in schools and hospitals. She eventually came to the United States in 1889 at the urging of Pope Leo XIII. She was accompanied by six Sisters, and their mission was to work among the Italian immigrants of New York City.

Before long, she founded schools, hospitals, and orphanages, and by the time of her death in Chicago on December 22, 1917, her institute numbered houses in England, France, Spain, and South America. In 1946 she became the first American citizen to be canonized, when Pope Pius XII elevated her to sainthood. We celebrate her feast day on November 13.

The Saint Frances Cabrini Shrine is located at 710 Fort Washington Avenue (190th street) in New York City.

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