Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini was born on July 15, 1850 in Lombardy, Italy, which is just south of Milan. Her given name at birth was Maria Francesca Cabrini, born one of thirteen children to farming parents. Even at an early age she was being called to missionary life and service to God. By age 18, she had received an education to become a teacher. Even though she was a frail woman, she did many miraculous and courageous things in her life. She traveled to many distant lands, sometimes to her physical and emotional detriment, and she continued to help immigrants - especially those from Italy, who were starting all over again in a new land.
I believe that the character traits that Frances exhibits are “Caring” and “Responsibility”. In 1880, she was asked to start the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart to specifically care for poor children in schools and hospitals. “Pope Leo the XII asked her to go to America to help with the care of the many new immigrants to New York.” (Biography of Mother Cabrini, www.cabrini.com) She was a woman who served the poor and who respected their identity and their religion. She not only prayed, had a great love of God, but most of all took positive action to help those who endured the unfortunate circumstances of the time. She visited those in prison, comforted the sick, and offered shelter to immigrants who had left their homeland. She had to raise money and break down lots of barriers to start her missionary work.
I am amazed at her endurance and perseverance through all the trials and challenges that she had to face. Her mission was to set up schools, hospitals, and orphanages in New York, Chicago, Seattle, and New Orleans. I will never forget my mother telling me stories of her grandmother being visited by Frances Cabrini while she was starting her mission work in Chicago. The story was told to me that Frances would visit my great grandmother’s general store with a basket in hand everyday, asking if she had any day old items like bread, milk, eggs, butter, anything at all to spare for the less fortunate. Every day that Frances came by to see my great grandmother she would find something. This beautiful woman, now a saint, must have made a big impact on my family, as there are many stories passed on about what a giving and courageous woman she was.
I have had the great honor of visiting the places where Frances Cabrini started missions: The Mother Cabrini Shrine in New York where her body lays in rest; The Mother Cabrini Shrine in Golden, Colorado, a place where people make pilgrimages to; Chicago, the location of my great grandmother’s general store; and to Seattle. I am proud to say that when I was confirmed into the Catholic Church at age 18, I chose St. Frances Cabrini as my patron saint. I feel her guidance and caring heart with me through all my daily struggles and life challenges.
She died on December 22, 1917 in Chicago from malaria. By the end of her life, she had established 67 (one for each year of her life) convents, hospitals, missions, orphanages, and schools in America, South America, and Europe. She was the first American citizen to be canonized on July 7, 1946. The Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is still a very active missionary congregation today in sixteen countries around the world.
Biography of Mother Cabrini. Saint Frances Cabrini School. Retrieved July 20, 2007 from http://www.cabrini.com
Frances Xavier Cabrini. (2003). Catholic Information Network. Retrieved July 20, 2007, from http://www.cin.org
Frances X Cabrini. Mother Cabrini Shrine. Retrieved July 11, 2007, from http://www.mothercabrinishrine.org
Home Page. (2006). Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Retrieved July 20, 2007 from http://www.mothercabrini.org
McCabe, J. Mother Cabrini Shrine. Retrieved July 20, 2007 from http://www.fordham.edu
Saint Frances Cabrini – Our Patron Saint. St. Frances Cabrini Parish. Retrieved July 11, 2007, from http://www.saintfrancescabrini.org
St. Frances Xavier Cabrini. (2007). Catholic Online. Retrieved July 20, 2007, fromhttp://www.catholic.org
Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini. Patron Saints Index. Retrieved July 20, 2007, from http://www.catholic-forum.com