Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini
St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, commonly known as “Mother Cabrini”, was the first American citizen to be canonized a saint. Maria Francesca Cabrini was born July 15, 1850, in the town of San Angelo, south of Milan in Italy. She was the youngest of thirteen children. She helped her parents work the family farm, but from an early age she was drawn to a missionary life and service to God.
In 1880, with seven other young women, she founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Shortly thereafter, Pope Leo XIII asked her to go to America to help with the care of the many new immigrants to New York. Although Mother Cabrini had always hoped to go to China as a missionary, she did as the Pope asked her. Mother Cabrini arrived in New York in March, 1889.
Immediately on her arrival she visited Archbishop Corrigan and told him of her plans to start an orphanage. The Archbishop was doubtful that this newly arrived woman could overcome all the problems involved in starting such an institution and tried to dissuade her. With her unshakeable faith in God Mother Cabrini started her orphanage anyway. She won over the Archbishop and together they began raising money. By July, 1889, Mother Cabrini had managed to buy 450 acres along the Hudson river. For weeks the Sisters had to haul water from the river, but after praying to Our Lady, a natural spring was discovered on the property. God always rewarded Mother Cabrini’s faith. For the next 28 years Mother Cabrini travelled throughout America founding schools, hospitals, and orphanages.
Although most of her work was done in New York, Chicago, Seattle, and New Orleans, she also founded institutions in many countries throughout South America and Europe. She never allowed obstacles to stand in her way. At various times she had to deal with revolutions in South America, lawsuits in Italy, lack of funds, and at times opposition from other members of the clergy. In every city she started with nothing and prayed, begged, and cajoled for the rest. This great faith is reflected in the many stories told about Mother Cabrini.
One such story tells how she got the property for her orphanage in Seattle. One night Mother Cabrini had a dream in which she saw a beautiful house on a hilltop. The next day Mother Cabrini and some sisters were walking when Mother Cabrini waved down a chauffeur-driven limo and asked for a ride. The lady in the limo was happy to help the sisters, and on the way, Mother Cabrini spoke of the house she had dreamed of. When they arrived at the convent and were saying goodbye, the lady told her: “Mother Cabrini, that house you dreamed of is mine, I own it. I never thought of parting with it, but if I may be allowed to enter your Holy House for a moment and receive a glass of water in the name of Our Lord, your little orphans shall have their home with my blessing.”. When asked later how she had obtained such a beautiful property, Mother Cabrini would say “I paid for it with three treasures: my love, a dream, and a glass of water in His Name.” Mother Cabrini was not a strong person physically, but she had a great inner strength. She had an unbending belief and trust in God.
Throughout her life and in all her many undertakings, she always knew that God would provide for her and the many schools, hospitals, orphanages, and missions which she founded. In 1909 Mother Cabrini became an American citizen. Mother Cabrini died in Chicago on December 22, 1917. Her remains are laid to rest in Mother Cabrini High School at 701 Fort Washington Avenue in the Bronx, New York. It is now a place of pilgrimage. Mother Cabrini was beatified in 1938 and canonized a saint in 1946. With the Order and her Sisters as a firm foundation, she established 67 missionary institutions, that included, St. Donato School, and other schools; as well as hospitals and orphanages in the U.S., South America and Europe. She died at the age of 67–averaging remarkably one institution for every year of her life!
We are extremely proud to name our new school,
St. Frances Cabrini Regional School, in honor of this wonderful saint!