Mother Cabrini and Today’s Migrants
The “era of migrations” we live in has seen an unprecedented number of forcibly displaced people. Extreme poverty, persisting wars and violence, drastic climate change and natural disasters, produce millions of asylum seekers and migrants.
Image above: In 2012, the Society of the Citizens of Pozzallo partnered with Groundswell, NYC to create a mural honoring Mother Francesca Cabrini.
How to answer the plight of asylum seekers, refugees, destitute migrants, internally displace people, can be learned from the example of the saints of the migrants, special persons of vast horizons, exceptional generosity and creative insights. From the inspiration of the Gospel, such saints derived the motivation and the courage to act.
The methodology of the saints of migrants, such as St. John Neumann of Philadelphia, USA; St. Mary MacKillop of Australia; recently canonized St. Giovanni Batista Scalabrini, Piacenza, Italy; and of course, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, who dedicated their lives and talents to their human and spiritual promotion is a useful and effective lesson for us.
particular, Mother Cabrini has articulated a dynamic approach that remains valid in the changed sociopolitical context of today. It had not been a sudden decision that pushed Mother Cabrini to plunge into the care of migrants, but a process of awareness and empathy for the needy.
The first step was a lively sense of mission. Mother Cabrini wanted to share her experience of God’s love with people in need. Analyzing the documents of the first years of activity of other Cabrini, one become quickly aware of a determined and practical personality in love with Jesus and deriving from this relationship, a creative and ready-for-action sense of mission.
The second step were evidenced in the first efforts of Mother Cabrini directed to the human and spiritual promotion of “abandoned youth”. Later, however, the plight of emigrants touched the hearts of the Sisters. The impulse to mission found a vast and urgent field of action. The education and formation of young women became a pioneering task.
third step shows the wide horizon within which Mother Cabrini was enlarging, and at the same time, consolidating her commitment to the care of people on the move. She confirms this priority after her first direct experience with the immigrants in New York City where she had arrived in 1889.
Although constantly struggling to find the economic means to start and support the multiplicity of initiatives undertaken to meet as many needs of the migrants, Mother Cabrini never stopped developing the outreach of her Institute.
As she looked at the future of immigrant communities in New Orleans, Denver, Seattle, Chicago, Mother Cabrini advocated a progressive integration into the host society. She wanted good Christians and also good citizens.
The fourth step – Mother Cabrini adopted a winning strategy, personal contact with the immigrants, a human relationship that inspired trust and love. Thus Mother and the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart visited immigrant families in their miserable tenements and cared for their children. It was not a managerial or bureaucratic approach but, rather, a captivating successful style that touched the hearts.
, the fifth step, Mother Cabrini did not back down for reminding public officials of their responsibility to contribute to the services she had started and to choose policies that would ease the problems of the immigrants.
As we observe her Feast Day, the relevance of Mother Cabrini’s example and her method endures and applies in contemporary societies that under the impact of new arrivals are becoming increasingly pluralistic and demand mutual comprehension, and a genuine sense of welcome and of integration. Native-born and immigrants can build a common future of peace and reciprocal enrichment if there are women and men who have a maternal heart like Mother Cabrini that is all-embracing in its compassion and evangelical love. ~ Archbishop Silvano M. Tomasi, CS, 100 Years of Cabrini Mission