|St Frances Xavier Cabrini (1850-1917)|
St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, was born Maria Francesca in Lombardia, Italy in 1850, the youngest of thirteen children. Two months premature, she remained in delicate health throughout her 67 years. As a young girl, she was taken care of by her older sister Rosa, because her mother was 52 when Maria Francesca was born.
At 13, she was sent to Arluno to study under the Daughters of the Sacred Heart at the Normal School, and in 1868, at 18 she was certified as a teacher. Four years later she contracted smallpox. When she tried to enter into the Daughters of the Sacred Heart, Mother Superior refused admission, even though she saw potential in her, because of her frail health. She helped her parents until their death, and then worked on a farm with her siblings.
One day a priest asked her to teach in a girls' school and she stayed for six years. At the request of her Bishop, she founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart to care for poor children in schools and hospitals. Although her lifelong dream was to be a missionary in China, Pope Leo XIII sent her to New York City on March 31, 1889 with six other nuns. There, she obtained the permission of Archbishop Michael Corrigan to found an orphanage, which is located in West Park, Ulster County, NY today known as Saint Cabrini Home, the first of 67 institutions she founded in New York, Chicago, Seattle, New Orleans, Denver, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and in countries throughout South America and Europe, especially Italy, England, France and Spain. Filled with a deep trust in God and endowed with a wonderful administrative ability, this remarkable woman soon founded schools, hospitals, and orphanages in this strange land and saw them flourish in the aid of Italian immigrants and children.
She died in Chicago, Illinois on December 22, 1917. In 1946, she became the first American citizen to be canonized by Pope Pius XII. St. Frances Xavier Cabrini is the patroness of immigrants. Her beatification miracle involved the restoration of sight to a child who had been blinded by excess silver nitrate in the eyes. Her canonization miracle involved the healing of a terminally ill nun. She is buried in Washington Heights where a shrine is also dedicated to her. Special celebrations will be held this year on the centennial of her death in December.