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. Phone 212-923-3536.
Article appeared in "The Cabrini Connection" Volume 1. Issue 1. Fall 1997.