Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini is best known for her extraordinary apostolic activity in the United States and South America in the service of Italian emigrants to whom she was sent by Pope Leo XIII. Her apostolic mysticism matured in the light of two great sources: the spirituality of the Sacred Heart and her missionary life – a mission which forced her to travel continuously, crossing the ocean over 24 times, traveling widely by train, carriage, on horseback, and even on foot, all with the sole purpose of bringing the consolation of God’s love to the most lonely, marginalized and desperate people.
in Sant’Angelo, Lodigiano into a modest family of farmers on July 15, 1850, Frances Cabrini came to know suffering at a young age, due to the fragility of her health, the deaths of several siblings, the strict teaching methods of her older sister Rosa, as well as innumerable other painful setbacks and disappointments. In fact, ardently desiring to consecrate herself to God in a convent led to the disappointment of being rejected several times due to her ill health. Also, the local priests looked upon her as the person to entrust with responsibilities in the diocesan and parish institutions and did not want to lose her as a pastoral asset.
She worked as a teacher in Vidardo followed by a devastating six-year experience in the House of Providence.
Then, in 1880, the Bishop of Lodi, Msgr. Domenico Gelmini, seeing the impossibility of changing the situation at the House of Providence, released Frances from her obligation there and exhorted her to fulfill her missionary dreams, saying to her, “I know you want to be a missionary. I do not know of any missionary institutes. You shall found one.” Frances simply replied, “I’ll look for a House.” Thus, she became the Foundress of the Institute of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, and from that moment was called “Mother Cabrini”.
In this way, her missionary adventure began, entirely oriented toward preparing for the missions of China that she had desired since childhood, but the rapid development of her institute and foundations, the fame of her abilities, and the impressive number of young women who asked to join her Institute attracted the attention of Monsignor – now Saint – Giovanni Battista Scalabrini, Bishop of Piacenza. He invited her to devote herself to Italian immigrants who left for the Americas in search of fortune and who were living in desperate conditions, especially in North America.
Mother Cabrini waited for the illumination of the Holy Spirit before accepting, and above all, she sought in herself the valid reasons that could have made her consider such a radical change to her missionary course. It took Pope Leo XIII, with whom she had established a deep filial relationship, to make her definitively decide to relinquish her long-cherished dream of missionary work in China.
Her adventure through the Americas and in Europe, underwent to no periods of inactivity. The groundbreaking activity in favor of the Italian immigrants prompted her to establish schools and orphanages, educational centers and reception centers, hospitals and dispensaries.
Traveling from one part of the world to the other, always with a suitcase ready, made grow in the heart of Mother Cabrini and her Missionaries, the ability to find God in all countries, in all cultures and in all social situations, developing, at the same time. The ability to read events in a Christian way, anchoring all the differences within the project of God, to unify them in the sole desire: to make known God’s saving love, because in this love one finds the fullness of life. ~excepts from Free Yourself and Put on Wings, Sr. Maria Barbagallo, MSC