Father Theodore Ploplis, the rector of the National Shrine of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini in Chicago hopes that its reopening will mean a return to prominence for the “indomitable” woman who labored to help immigrant communities in North America.
“The National Shrine of Mother Cabrini should be one of the most significant shrines that people [can be] coming to for spiritual guidance and to learn about our first American saint,” Fr. Ploplis told EWTN News on May 17.
“It’s not going to be a museum. It’s going to be a place of worship for devotion to the saints.”
Mother Cabrini’s national shrine closed in 2002 when the surrounding Columbus Hospital was shuttered and eventually torn down. Before the hospital was demolished, Mother Cabrini’s hospital room was dismantled, moved, and rebuilt as an annex to the shrine.
“All of the things that were in her room when she passed away have been preserved,” Fr. Ploplis said.
Restorers even found Mother Cabrini’s address book.
“You never think of a saint having an address book with phone numbers of people that she knew and kept in touch with,” the rector remarked.
In preparation for the reopening of the Shrine, Chicago historian Ellen Skerrett has been researching historical accounts of Mother Cabrini’s works, her beatification and canonization. This week, Ms. Skerrett’s research has taken her to Cabrini College in Radnor, PA where under the aegis of Missionary Sisters Joan McGlinchey and Mary Louise Sullivan she has been working with the Assistant Library Director Anne Schwelm, who also serves as the unofficial curator of the Cabriniana Room, which is housed in the Holy Spirit Library on campus. The Cabriniana Room is a repository for many precious artifacts, historic news articles and documents pertaining to Mother Cabrini.
Cardinal Francis George will reopen the Shrine, which can seat 350 people, this September 30, in a celebration expected to attract city officials and people from throughout the world.
Those who met Mother Cabrini said they were “in the presence of someone who could move mountains,” Fr. Ted added, comparing her confidence to that of St. Paul’s letters.
“She was a woman who believed in Philippians: I can do all things in God who strengthens me,” the priest said.