Feast Day: November 13
Francis Cabrini was born in 1850 in Lombardy, Italy. Longing to become a nun near her own birthplace, but turned down twice because she was not considered sufficiently healthy, God used her instead as an extraordinary missionary sister.
Frances’s first step was to start her own novitiate in Italy for women serving in corporal and spiritual works of mercy. Part of her strategy was to take as novices women who, like herself, had been rejected by other Religious Orders. She attracted women like a magnet, and her community grew rapidly. She was affectionate but firm, practical but motivated by an eternal purpose.
Pope Leo XIII was so impressed by her zeal and her organizational skills that he decided she might be the solution for a growing problem. Italians were immigrating in droves to the United States. Once arrived, not speaking any English, they were not able to understand the German or Irish priests in their parishes, and their children were starved for religious education. The Pope decided to send Frances with seven of her nuns to a parish in New York City to minister to this need.
Although terrified by the ocean, Frances agreed. Imagine her surprise when she arrived in New York City only to learn that the priest who had asked for them had no means for their support. He wanted them to return on the next ship! Undaunted, as ever, Frances simply went begging in the streets in the Italian quarter until she could open a house for her Sisters, called the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart. The number of apostolic projects she undertook in the United States and around the world mounted up to sixty-seven by the time of her death.
Frances Cabrini’s heart finally gave out in Chicago – she collapsed while wrapping Christmas presents at an orphanage. She died the following day and is buried in New York.
Mother Cabrini was the first United States citizen canonized. She is the Universal Patron Saint of Immigrants. Members of her Religious Order are also known as the Cabrini Sisters and continue to work on six continents.
“I have the strength for everything through Him who strengthens me.”—Philippians 4:13 (motto of Frances Cabrini)
Chervin, Ronda. “Treasury of Women Saints.” Cincinnati: Servant, an imprint of Franciscan Media, 2015.
Gallick, Sarah. “The Big Book of Women Saints.” New York, NY: HarperOne, 2007.
Ghezzi, Bert. “Voices of the Saints.” Chicago: Loyola Press, 2000.