Friday, March 7, 2008
Mother Cabrini: First American Saint of Lombardian descent
Mother Cabrini is the first American Saint, recognized by the Catholic Church. She was of Lombardian descent. I will merely transfer her biography from Wikipedia here. As we now know, Wikipedia is good in some ways and not in others. However, I believe this to be the standard and accepted short biography.
Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini (July 15, 1850 – December 22, 1917) known during her life as Mother Cabrini, was the first American citizen to be canonized by the Roman Catholic Church.
She was born Maria Francesca Cabrini in Sant'Angelo Lodigiano, in Lombardy, the youngest of thirteen children of Agostino Cabrini and Stella Oldini who were farmers. Two months premature, she remained in delicate health throughout her 67 years.
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 Daughter of the Scared Heart, Mother Giovanna Francesca Grassi refused admission even though she saw true potential in her because of her frail health. She said, "You are called to establish another Institute that will bring new glory to the Heart of Jesus." She was rejected by the Canossians as well. Instead, she supported her parents until they died and helped the family on the farm. She taught at a private school that was founded by one of her fellow sisters in Sant’Angelo. Then, in 1871, she became a public school teacher in a nearby village under the request of her pastor.
Finally, she took religious vows in 1877 and added Xavier to her name to honor the Jesuit priest, Francis Xaiver. She became the mother superior of the House of Providence orphanage in Codogno, where she taught.
In 1880, the orphanage was closed. She and six other sisters that took religous vows with her, founded the Institute of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (MSC) on November 14. Mother Cabrini composed the rules and constitution of the order, and she continued as its superior-general until her death.
The order established seven homes and a free school and nursery in its first five years. Its good works brought Mother Cabrini to the attention of Bishop Giovanni Scalabrini of Piacenza and of Pope Leo XIII.
Although her lifelong dream was to be a missionary in China, the Pope sent her to New York City on March 31, 1889. There, she obtained the permission of Archbishop Michael Corrigan to found an orphanage, which is located in West Park, Ulster County, NY today and is 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. Long after her death, the Missionary Sisters would achieve Mother Cabrini's goal of being a missionary to China. After much social and religious upheaval and only a short time, the sisters left China, and subsequently a Siberian placement.
She was naturalized as an American citizen in 1909.
Mother Cabrini died of complications from malaria at Columbus Hospital in Chicago, Illinois. Though originally entombed in West Park, NY, after her death on December 22, 1917, her remains were exhumed from West Park in 1931 and are now enshrined on display under glass in the church's altar at St. Frances Cabrini Shrine, part of Mother Cabrini High School, located at 701 Fort Washington Avenue, in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan. The street to the west of the shrine was renamed Cabrini Boulevard in her honor.
She was beatified on November 13, 1938 and canonized on July 7, 1946 by Pope Pius XII. St. Frances Xavier Cabrini is the patron saint 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. Her body is not incorrupt; although it is often said to be so, signage around her shrine and resting place in Washington Heights make it very clear that she is not.
The Cabrini Green housing project in Chicago is named after her, due to her work with Italian immigrants in the location. It has since become a haven for underprivileged and poor people and the MSC sisters still work there. Cabrini College, in Radnor, Pennsylvania, also bears her name.
The Cabrini Mission Foundation is an organization committed to advancing St. Frances Xavier Cabrini's mission and legacy of healing, teaching, and caring around the world.
Mother Cabrini's feast day is celebrated on December 22 by Traditionalist Roman Catholics.
Further information and links at the Mother Cabrini page at Wikipedia