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The period immediately after the death of Frances Xavier Cabrini was not an easy time. Unlike some other institutes which had been founded in Europe but whose members established independent congregations once they reached the United States, the Missionary Sisters had remained a unified worldwide Institute. While she lived, Mother Cabrini was a strong source of this unity, maintaining it, as we have seen, by her frequent visits and correspondence. The bereaved sisters in Europe, North, South and Central America had to accept the hard truth of going forward without her.
In accordance with the wish of Frances Cabrini, Mother Antonietta della Casa assumed the task of guiding the Institute into the immediate future. She maintained the delicate balance of moving forward while preserving the spirit and memories of the early works.
The official process begun in the 1920s and 1930s to proclaim Frances Xavier Cabrini a saint moved forward to her beatification in Rome in 1938. The steps required for Mother Cabrinis canonization were completed before the end of the second World War and hers was the first post-war canonization, celebrated on July 7, 1946. Acclaimed the first U.S. citizen-saint, she was named Patroness of Immigrants in 1950 by Pope Pius XII. This must have been especially gratifying to Mother Antonietta who died in 1955.
The next Superior General, Mother Valentina Colombo, who served from 1955 until 1967, faced a most difficult challenge. She continued the process of evaluating the institutions and works, including those established by Mother Cabrini. Some were discontinued; others updated, maintained or expanded.
The Institute of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was relatively young, yet many of the sisters who had personally known Mother Cabrini were aging or dying. It was feared that as memories lessened, the energy of the original vision could also diminish.
Pope John XXIII, a leader with broad vision opened the windows of the Church, when he convoked the ecumenical council, Vatican II, on October 11, 1962. The Council, which was solemnly closed in December, 1965, produced a body of documents which would revolutionize the way the Church responded to the modern world.
At an Extraordinary General Chapter of Renewal, which began in Rome in 1967 and ended in West Park, New York, in 1968, the sisters faced the challenges unique to them as an Institute. The chapter was a time of light and grace. Mother Chiara Grasselli was elected Superior General in a climate of prayer and discernment. The aim of the Chapter was the renewal of religious life understood in its complex whole, both as an interior spiritual life and as an apostolic life.
The sisters heeded the call of Vatican II to be inculturated and to live closer to the people they served. Their moving outward was strengthened and enriched as they studied and learned new concepts and methods of evangelization and ministry.
In 1968, the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Sicily, were united with the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Expansion continued into Lebanon, Guatemala and Swaziland, Southern Africa. Mother Chiaras death in 1971 caused genuine sorrow and required the convocation of the General Chapter in 1972. Sister Regina Casey was elected as Superior General at that time. In 1980, under the leadership of Sr. Regina, the MSC Constitutions were approved and disseminated.
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