~ by Roxanne King of the Denver Catholic
workday, facilities manager Tom Francis starts his morning in the same way. He enters the chapel at Mother Cabrini Shrine on Lookout Mountain, turns on the lights and addresses a statue of the Shrine’s namesake.
“I tell her, ‘OK boss, this is your place. I’m just a pair of hands. You need to help me or we won’t be able to be here for those who come.’”
On December 1, Tommy, as he is affectionately called, marked 50 years as an employee of the Shrine, which is named after St. Frances X. Cabrini. The Shrine staff honored the energetic 71-year- old with a Mass and luncheon.
“Tommy has a deep devotion to Mother Cabrini,” said JoAnn Seaman, Development Director. “He has had a huge impact on the Shrine and what it has become…He is very humble and gives all the credit to Cabrini.”
Tommy was recognized for service that started when he was a 21-year-old college student who labored summers, nights and weekends at the Shrine and lived with his parents, grandmother and siblings in the caretaker’s house. But, in reality his service began when he was still a child and his father, Carl, worked as the maintenance manager for Mother Cabrini’s Queen of Heaven Orphanage in north Denver which operated from 1905-1967 and was torn down in 1969.
“I was blessed to work with my dad and to be around the [Missionary] Sisters all the time,” Tommy said.
Even after Tommy finished college and was working full-time as a math teacher, he continued working part-time at the Shrine. Upon retiring from a successful 30-year teaching career in 2003, he began laboring full-time at the Shrine.
“Mother Cabrini bought this property in 1910 primarily as the summer home for the girls of the Queen of Heaven Orphanage,” Tommy explained.
In his years with the Shrine, Tommy, with the help of many volunteers, has beautified and enhanced the tranquility of the grounds with his landscaping skills.
JoAnn Seaman said, “He knows every inch of this place like the back of his hand.”
Our sisters would not have been able to maintain this ministry without Tommy and his family, who have worked for the sisters since the time of the orphanage,” said Sr. Roselle Santivasi, MSC. “Every Missionary Sister knows Tom Francis and his family. They are a large part of why the Shrine mission has succeeded and has brought the presence of God to so many people.”
A widower for 27 years, he raised two daughters, Tommy met his current wife, Sarah, when she moved to Golden as a Cabrini Mission Corps missioner. The couple will mark their 10th anniversary in March. Sarah is just one of the blessings Mother Cabrini has brought Tommy as he labors at her Shrine.
“You can feel a connection with Mother Cabrini here – you can feel her presence,” Tommy asserted. “Even though
we no longer have orphans, about 50 percent of our visitors are immigrants who have a great devotion to Mother Cabrini. The Sisters still work with the poor and it’s still the Cabrini vision to spread God’s love through the world.”
“Since my dad started working for the Sisters in 1930, it’s my goal to continue working to 2030 so that we can have 100 [consecutive] years of service to St. Frances Cabrini in Denver,” he said, not satisfied with the 104 combined years they have already given. “The Shrine is a wonderful place to be. It’s blessing after blessing.” ~ submitted by JoAnn Seaman, Mother Cabrini Shrine
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