The Feast Day of the Patroness of Immigrants
November 13, 2023
In the early years, the Missionary Sisters worked in northern Italy. But Mother Cabrini was eager to spread the love of Jesus around the world. She still longed to go to China. Then a different opportunity presented itself.
In 1887, Mother Cabrini was approached by Bishop Giovanni Scalabrini, now Saint Scalabrini. The bishop was deeply concerned about Italians who had emigrated to the Americas. In a single decade, nearly a million had fled poverty in southern Italy. Few had much education, and few possessed skills that allowed them to get good jobs. Instead of finding the better life they envisioned, they faced deep prejudice, poor wages, a padrone system of contract labor, and bad housing.
In those days, the U.S. was considered mission territory. There were few priests in the United States who spoke Italian. Bishop Scalabrini asked Mother Cabrini to go to New York to help.
Mother Cabrini prayed deeply about this. Then she obtained an audience with Pope Leo XIII to seek his advice. The Pope told Mother Cabrini to go “not to the East, but to the West” to tend to the immigrants in the United States. So, Mother Cabrini and six of her Missionary Sisters set off for New York City in 1889.
They found a mass of human misery: families crammed into foul tenements, parents working 12-hour days for meager wages, and children who lacked food, supervision, and basic education.
Within days of her arrival, Mother Cabrini organized catechism classes and schooling for the children. She and the Missionary Sisters knocked door to door through rough neighborhoods, facing humiliating insults to gather funds to do their work. Their convent quickly became a haven for children from the notorious Five Points neighborhood in New York City. An orphanage was established, followed by schools and a hospital.
Soon requests for Mother Cabrini’s help poured in from other cities in the United States, as well as from Europe and Central and South America. Renowned as a woman of deep faith, Mother Cabrini was also an astute businesswoman. Over the course of 34 years, she established an astonishing 67 hospitals, orphanages, and schools. Her energy was fueled by an intense focus on serving Jesus in whatever was asked of her.
In Seattle in 1909, Mother Cabrini became a citizen of the United States. Following her death at the age of 67 in 1917, she was canonized in 1946 and given the title Patroness of Immigrants four years later.
~excerpts from the St. Frances X. Cabrini Shrine website
A new film, entitled CABRINI, chronicles the missionary zeal of Mother Cabrini, her work in New York to establish ministries on behalf of immigrants, and is set to debut in March 2024.
To watch a trailer of the movie, please click here