I was recently inspired to begin a new series on my blog!
Since I enjoy learning about the saints, and they’re an important part of the Catholic Faith, I decided to create a series for them.
The new series is called Saint Spotlight.
In this series I’ll highlight a saint for a specific purpose. It will most likely be a saint whose feast is celebrated in the current month.
I’ll describe the life of the saint and provide interesting information that I find.
I’ll choose saints from different time periods and walks of life, some well-known and some obscure.
Today I’ll present a saint I recently learned about: Frances Xavier Cabrini.
Maria Francesca Cabrini was born in Sant’Angelo Lodigiano, Lombardy, Italy on July 15, 1850.
She was born two months premature which caused her to suffer from poor health her entire life.
She was the youngest of thirteen children, only four of whom survived to adulthood.
From a young age, especially after receiving First Holy Communion, Maria Francesca was focused on Jesus and desired to follow His will.
At age 18 she applied to the Daughters of the Sacred Heart, the order responsible for much of her education.
Despite her intelligence and teaching skills, she was denied admission to the order. The sisters believed that her poor health made her “too frail” for their life.
At the advice of a priest, Maria Francesca became a supervisor and teacher of an orphanage. During this time, she gathered a group of women to live a religious way of life.
In 1877 her desire finally became a reality: she took vows and the religious habit.
Maria Francesca changed her name to Frances Xavier in honor of Saint Francis Xavier, the patron of missionaries.
Soon after taking vows, she became known as Mother Cabrini.
A New Order
In 1880, following the command of the bishop, Mother Cabrini and the women created a new religious order.
They founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart, which was later renamed the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (MSC).
Mother Cabrini wrote the Rule and Constitution of the order and served as the Superior General until her death.
The mission of the order was to care for poor children in Italy, but Mother Cabrini had bigger plans. Her lifelong dream was to be a missionary in China.
When she met with Pope Leo XIII to seek permission to open a convent in China, he advised her to travel “not to the East, but the West.”
At that time, Italian immigrants were flooding the United States. They were living in poor conditions and losing faith because they weren’t receiving help from the Catholic parishes there.
The pope urged Mother Cabrini to go to New York City and help the struggling immigrants.
“I will go anywhere and do anything in order to communicate the love of Jesus to those who do not know Him or have forgotten Him.” ~ St. Frances Xavier Cabrini
In 1889, with a small group of the sisters, Mother Cabrini traveled to the United States. They traveled by boat, in second class and uncomfortable conditions.
When Mother Cabrini and the sisters arrived in New York City, they witnessed chaos and poverty.
In this foreign land they faced challenges and disappointments at every turn.
First, there was nowhere for the sisters to stay because their accommodations weren’t ready.
Next, the small stipend for food and living expenses wasn’t accessible.
Then, the building intended for the new orphanage was no longer available.
The archbishop advised the sisters to return to Italy, but Mother Cabrini refused and was determined to fulfill their mission.
Eventually, the sisters received support and the orphanage was opened.
Mother Cabrini didn’t stop there!
She organized Catechism classes to teach the Catholic Faith to the Italian immigrants in their own language.
She began to travel extensively and founded 67 schools, hospitals and orphanages throughout the United States, Europe, Central America, and South America.
These institutions were dedicated to serving immigrants, the poor, uneducated, abandoned, and ill.
The Missionary Sisters, along with lay associates and volunteers, continue to serve in 6 continents and 15 countries.
“God has done it all: I have only been a spectator of God’s work.” ~ St. Frances Xavier Cabrini
In 1909, after 20 years in the United States, Mother Cabrini became a naturalized citizen.
She worked tirelessly to serve others until the moment of her death. While making Christmas gifts for the children in Columbus Hospital, her hospital in Chicago, she collapsed.
Mother Cabrini died on December 22, 1917 due to complications with her health.
Frances Xavier Cabrini was canonized in July 1946, making her the first U.S. citizen to be declared a saint.
Her feast day is celebrated on November 13th in the United States, the date of her beatification.
She’s the patron of hospital administrators and immigrants.
Many shrines are dedicated to her:
- National Shrine of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini is located in Chicago, Illinois at the former Columbus Hospital, the location of her death. It’s now a place of prayer, worship, spiritual care, and pilgrimage.
- St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Shrine is located in Manhattan, New York. Most of her remains are kept under glass in the altar here. It continues to be a place of prayer and reflection for immigrants and pilgrims.
Why I Chose This Saint
- Her feast is celebrated this month.
- Her name is in the news (see below).
- Her life is a testimony to what can be accomplished in the face of opposition and challenges. Even though she was in poor health, she traveled throughout the world to spread the Gospel and serve those in need. She had a strong will, and an even stronger faith; she never gave up and always trusted in Divine Providence. The life of this saint proves that with God, anything is possible.
You may have heard Mother Cabrini in the news recently.
Chirlane McCray, wife of New York Mayor Bill De Blasio, created “She Built NYC” — a program to increase the number of statues of women in the city.
The public was asked to vote for a woman who most influenced New York City.
Approximately 2,000 people voted for over 300 choices.
St. Frances Xavier Cabrini received 219 votes, the most votes of any choice!
Even though Mother Cabrini overwhelming received the most votes, the selection committee has decided not to create a statue for her.
When this news became public, there was a great uproar (especially among Catholics and Italian-Americans). The story has gained a lot of media attention.
In October Governor Cuomo announced that he would support the building of the statue, despite the committee’s decision.
It’s clear that Mother Cabrini’s life had a significant impact on New York City and beyond.
The religious order and institutions she built continue to serve the most vulnerable and lead souls to Christ.
Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, pray for us!