Feastday: 13 November
This saint, the first United States citizen to be canonized, was born in
Italy of parents who were farmers. She was the thirteenth child, born
when her mother was fifty-two years old. The missionary spirit was
awakened in her as a little girl when her father read stories of the
missions to his children. She received a good education, and at eighteen
was awarded the normal school certificate.
For a while, she helped the pastor teach catechism and visited the sick
and the poor. She also taught school in a nearby town, and for six years
supervised an orphanage assisted by a group of young women. The bishop of
Lodi heard of this group and asked Frances to establish a missionary
institute to work in his diocese. Frances did so, calling the community
the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart. An academy for girls was
opened and new houses quickly sprang up.
One day Bishop Scalabrini, founder of the Missionaries of Emigration,
described to Mother Cabrini the wretched economical and spiritual
conditions of the many Italian immigrants in the United States, and she
was deeply moved. An audience with Pope Leo XIII changed her plans to go
to the missions of the East. "Not to the East, but to the
West," the Pope said to her. "Go to the United States."
Mother Cabrini no longer hesitated. She landed in New York in 1889,
established an orphanage, and then set out on a lifework that comprised
the alleviation of every human need. For the children, she erected
schools, kindergartens, clinics, orphanages, and foundling homes, and
numbers of hospitals for the needy sick. At her death, over five thousand
children were receiving care in her charitable institutions, and at the
same time her community had grown to five hundred members in seventy
houses in North and South America, France, Spain, and England.
NS photo by Victor Aleman
Girls carry an image of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini during a Mass
honoring refugees and immigrants in Los Angeles
Sept. 13, 2008
The saint, frail and diminutive of stature, showed such energy and
enterprise that everyone marveled. She crossed the Atlantic twenty-five
times to visit the various houses and institutions. In 1909 she adopted
the United States as her country and became a citizen. After thirty-seven
years of unflagging labor and heroic charity she died alone in a chair in
Columbus Hospital at Chicago, Illinois, while making dolls for orphans in
preparation for a Christmas party. Cardinal Mundelein of Chicago
officiated at her funeral, and in 1938 also presided at her beatification
by Pius XI. She was canonized by Pius XII in 1946. She lies buried under
the altar of the chapel of Mother Cabrini High School in New York City.
A Saint A Day, Berchmans Bittle, O.F.M.Cap.