Frances Xavier Cabrini

Summary

Francesca Saverio Cabrini (Sant” Angelo Lodigiano, July 15, 1850-Chicago, December 22, 1917) was an Italian nun, the first American citizen to be canonized. During her lifetime she was known as Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini (in English), Francisca Javier Cabrini (in Spanish) or simply Mother Cabrini. She was considered the finest Italian example of a foundress of a congregation dedicated to social assistance.

Francisca Cabrini was born in Sant”Angelo Lodigiano, in Lombardy (Italy), and was the youngest of the thirteen children of Agostino Cabrini and Stella Oldini. Born prematurely, her health was delicate during her 67 years of life. She took religious vows in 1877, becoming the mother superior of the orphanage Casa della Provvidenza in Codogno, where she taught.

In 1880 the orphanage was closed and she became one of the seven founding members of the Institute of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In 1888 the Bishop of Piacenza, Blessed John Baptist Scalabrini, invited her to collaborate with his missions in America.

“It would be good, Mother, if you would decide to send your sisters to America. We opened a mission in New York with a chapel and we are about to open another, perhaps for Christmas; I think that in that city your sisters could do a lot of good for our emigrants.”

On May 25, 1888, at the railroad station of Piacenza, Mother Cabrini meets Blessed John Baptist Scalabrini, with whom she was negotiating the opening of a house for her Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, with a school for girls and an orphanage in Castelsangiovanni, on this occasion Blessed Scalabrini comments again his proposal that they open a mission in America to assist the Italians. Gerardo Beccaro, who joins a conversation between Cabrini and one of his sisters. To them he indicates how collaboration between the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart and the Scalabrinian priests in America would help both congregations to provide better assistance to many poor people, acting as a kind of multiplier of graces.

Blessed John Baptist Scalabrini receives frequent requests to send sisters to New York; in fact in their reports, Father Morelli and Father Zaboglio insist that, with the help “of even two or three nuns”, a school could be successfully established to prevent, among other things, many young Italians from being attracted by the proselytizing efforts of the Protestant churches. There is also an American benefactress, married to an Italian, who is soliciting nuns because she intends to establish a vocational school for young Italian girls. On November 5, Msgr. Michael Augustine Corrigan, Archbishop of New York, writes to the Bishop of Piacenza, Blessed John Baptist Scalabrini, asking him to send a group of Italian nuns; the Archbishop of New York suggests that they be the Sisters of St. Anne founded by Mother Gattorno, whom Scalabrini had helped in 1878 to open a mission in South America. However, the Bishop of Piacenza thinks and turns to Mother Cabrini.

Faced with this proposal, Francesca Cabrini felt anguish, for which reason she prayed intensely, sought advice, went to Rome to consult with some friends and with the Secretary of Propaganda Fide; she spoke with Cardinal Parocchi. Everyone reassures her and invites her to leave; still not convinced, she asks for an audience with Leo XIII, the Pope summons her on January 10, 1889. The meeting does not completely resolve her doubts; she writes: “From this moment on we will have to turn our thoughts to America and soon we will cross the ocean with the deepest joy in our hearts”. Immediately after the audience, Mother Cabrini writes from Rome to a sister, asking her to visit Scalabrini as soon as possible to communicate her intention to leave in May.

On the night of February 24, 1889 Frances Xavier Cabrini has a dream, as in a vision she speaks with her mother, the Virgin Mary, with the Sacred Heart and the Venerable Antonia Belloni of Codogno, the city where her institute began; all of them invite her not to be afraid to go to America, because everything has been prepared. And on the morning of the 25th Blessed Scalabrini and Cabrini met at the Vatican. Feeling uneasy, Cabrini stops in St. Peter”s Basilica for a long time in prayer. She then returns to her residence on Via Nomentana and is surprised to find a carriage in front of her door. It is Bishop Scalabrini who is waiting for her. The bishop gets out of his car, approaches her and greets her joyfully: “Oh, you with your dreams! Here is a letter from New York, now you can leave”.

Mother Cabrini, before radically changing the objective of her mission from the peoples of the East to the poor Italian immigrants in America, wants to see things clearly. In spite of the dream, the letter that excited Scalabrini makes her hesitate; she asks once again for an audience with Leo XIII, on this occasion the Pope leaves her in no doubt:

“Not to the East, but to the West. Your Institute is still young and in need of resources. Go to the United States, you will find them and with them, a great field of work.”

On March 18, the first six Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart destined for America, together with their foundress, receive the missionary crucifix from the hands of Bishop Scalabrini. In his homily the bishop makes a small but great revelation, which seems to coincide with Mother Cabrini”s dream. After going through the heartbreaking content of many letters he receives from America, he recalls a missionary who has asked for the “immediate” sending of some nuns, to assist the orphan girls and prevent so many abandoned girls from going down a bad path.

Santa Cabrini and her sisters arrived in New York on the night of March 31, 1889. Then they expanded to Chicago, Seattle, New Orleans, Denver, Los Angeles, and in some countries of South America and Europe. In 1909 he became a naturalized American citizen.

Mother Cabrini died of dysentery at Columbus Hospital in Chicago. Her remains are buried at Mother Cabrini High School, 701 Fort Washington Avenue (Manhattan).

Frances Cabrini was beatified on November 13, 1938 by Pope Pius XI and canonized on July 7, 1946 by Pope Pius XII.The miracle that enabled her beatification refers to the restoration of sight to a child who had been blinded by an excess of silver nitrate in the eyes.The miracle of her canonization was the cure of a terminal illness in the person of a nun.

In 1950 Pius XII proclaimed Mother Cabrini the patron saint of immigrants and in 1952 the American Committee on Italian Migration of New York declared her the Italian immigrant of the century.

There are several prayers and hymns in his honor.

St. Francesca Javiera Cabrini did not write books, what was edited is a part of the numerous correspondence that she maintained with the sisters of Codogno and other missives that she addressed to the students of the Magisterio. These letters were published in a book edited in Buenos Aires in May 1957.

Mother Cabrini wrote these letters during her travels by ship, so they were catalogued according to the origin and destination of her many voyages.

Sources

  1. Francisca Javiera Cabrini
  2. Frances Xavier Cabrini