Happy 172nd Birthday, Mother Cabrini!
July 15, 1850
“The saint of the immigrants,” “patroness of immigrants,” the “Italian immigrant of the century.” These are some of the phrases used to describe the frail, diminutive (less than five feet tall) Frances Xavier Cabrini, foundress and driving force of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Born in 1850 in the Lombard village of Sant’ Angelo Lodigiano, she became a United States citizen in Seattle in 1909 and died in Chicago in 1917, closing a life of sixty-seven years, twenty-eight of them spent in prodigious religious accomplishment on behalf of her beloved Italian immigrants in the Americas. In 1946, Pope Pius XII declared her a saint. She was the first citizen of the United States to be so honored.
Mother Cabrini was a major agent for change during what has been called “modern history’s greatest and most sustained movement from a single country,” the late nineteenth and early twentieth-century emigration of millions of Italians to the Americas, over 100,000 of whom were located in New York City’s Lower East Side.
It was to this community, and to communities like it across the United States, that Mother Cabrini came. She brought them what they needed, a spirit of compassion and of understanding, as she built orphanages and hospitals, worked in parishes and established industrial schools. She and her sisters, who grew in her lifetime to be over 1,000 in number, fanned the spark of faith among the immigrants and their children. ~ excerpts from the Foreward written by James Hennessey, SJ for Mother Cabrini, “Italian Immigrant of the Century” the book written by Sr. Mary Louise Sullivan, MSC, PhD