Frances Xavier Cabrini

Frances Xavier Cabrini MSC (Italian: Francesca Saverio Cabrini; July 15, 1850 – December 22, 1917), also called Mother Cabrini, was an Italian-American Roman Catholic nun. She founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a Catholic religious institute that was a major support to her fellow Italian immigrants to the United States. She was the first U.S. citizen to be canonized as a Saint by the Roman Catholic Church, on July 7, 1946. (Elizabeth Ann Seton later became the first native-born U.S. citizen to be canonized.)

Frances Xavier Cabrini
Francesca Cabrini.JPG
Religious and foundress
Born(1850-07-15)July 15, 1850
Sant'Angelo Lodigiano, Province of Lodi, Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia, Austrian Empire
DiedDecember 22, 1917(1917-12-22) (aged 67)
Chicago, Illinois, US
Venerated inRoman Catholic Church
BeatifiedNovember 13, 1938, by Pope Pius XI
CanonizedJuly 7, 1946, by Pope Pius XII
Major shrineNational Shrine of Saint Francis Xavier Cabrini, Chicago, IL; Mother Cabrini Shrine, Golden, CO; St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Shrine, New York, NY
FeastNovember 13 (US, 1961 to date),
December 22 (elsewhere)
PatronageImmigrants, hospital administrators

Early lifeEdit

Frances was born July 15, 1850, in Sant'Angelo Lodigiano, in the Lombard Province of Lodi, then part of the Austrian Empire, the youngest of the thirteen children of Agostino Cabrini and Stella Oldini,[1] who were farmers. Only four of the thirteen survived beyond adolescence.

Born two months early, she was small and weak as a child, and remained in delicate health throughout her life. During her childhood, she visited an uncle, Don Luigi Oldini of Livagra, a priest who lived beside a swift canal. While there, she made little boats of paper, dropped violets in them, called the flowers missionaries, and launched them to sail off to India and China. At thirteen, Francesca attended a school run by the Daughters of the Sacred Heart. Five years later she graduated cum laude, with a teaching certificate.[2]

After the deaths of her parents in 1870, she applied for admission to the religious congregation of the Daughters of the Sacred Heart at Arluno. These sisters were her former teachers, but, reluctantly, they told her she was too frail for their life.[3] She became the headmistress of the House of Providence orphanage in Codogno, where she taught, and drew a small community of women to live a religious way of life. Cabrini took religious vows in 1877 and added Xavier to her name to honor the Jesuit saint, Francis Xavier, the patron saint of missionary service.[4]

Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of JesusEdit

In November 1880, she and six other women who had taken religious vows with her founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (M.S.C.).[5] Cabrini composed the Rule and Constitutions of the religious institute, and she continued as its superior general until her death. The sisters took in orphans and foundlings, opened a day school to help pay expenses, started classes in needlework and sold their fine embroidery to earn a little more money.[2] The institute established seven homes and a free school and nursery in its first five years. Its good works brought Cabrini to the attention of (the now Blessed) Giovanni Scalabrini, Bishop of Piacenza, and of Pope Leo XIII.

Mission to United StatesEdit

Stained glass window in Chesapeake, Virginia, depicting Mother Cabrini

In September 1877, Cabrini went to seek approval of the pope to establish missions in China. Instead, he suggested that she go to the United States to help the Italian immigrants who were flooding to that nation, mostly in great poverty. "Not to the East, but to the West" was his advice.[5]

Cabrini left for the United States, arriving in New York City on March 31, 1889, along with six other sisters.[6] In New York she encountered disappointment and difficulties.[5] Archbishop Michael Corrigan, who was not immediately supportive, found them housing at the convent of the Sisters of Charity. She obtained the archbishop's permission to found an orphanage, which is located in West Park, New York and known today as Saint Cabrini Home.

Cabrini organized catechism and education classes for the Italian immigrants and provided for the needs of the many orphans. She established schools and orphanages despite tremendous odds. She was as resourceful as she was prayerful, finding people who would donate what she needed in money, time, labor, and support.[7] In New York City, she founded Columbus Hospital, which merged with Italian Hospital to become Cabrini Medical Center from 1973[8] until its closure in 2008.[9]

In Chicago, the sisters opened Columbus Extension Hospital (later renamed Saint Cabrini Hospital) in the heart of the city's Italian neighborhood on the Near West Side. Both hospitals eventually closed near the end of the 20th century. Their foundress' name lives on in Chicago's Cabrini Street.

She founded 67 institutions: in New York; Chicago and Des Plaines, Illinois; Seattle; New Orleans; Denver and Golden, Colorado; Los Angeles; Philadelphia; and in countries throughout Latin America and Europe.[4] Long after her death, the Missionary Sisters would achieve Cabrini's goal of being missionaries to China. In only a short time, after much social and religious upheaval there, the Sisters left China and, subsequently, a Siberian placement.[citation needed]

Cabrini was naturalized as a United States citizen in 1909.[4]


Cabrini died of complications from malaria at age 67 in Columbus Hospital in Chicago, Illinois, on December 22, 1917,[1] while preparing Christmas candy for the local children. By that time, she had founded 67 missionary institutions to serve the sick and poor and to train additional sisters to carry on the work.

Her body was originally interred at what is now Saint Cabrini Home, an orphanage she founded in West Park, Ulster County, New York.


In 1931, her body was exhumed as part of the canonization process. At that time, her head was removed and is preserved in the chapel of the congregation's international motherhouse in Rome. An arm is at the national shrine in Chicago, while most of the rest of her body is at the shrine in New York.

Cabrini was beatified on November 13, 1938, by Pope Pius XI, and canonized on July 7, 1946,[7] by Pope Pius XII. Her beatification miracle involved restoring the sight of a one-day-old baby who had been blinded by a 50% silver nitrate solution instead of the normal 1% solution in the child's eyes. The child, named Peter Smith (1921–2002), would later be present at her beatification and become a priest.[10] Her canonization miracle involved the healing of a terminally ill member of her congregation. When she was canonized, an estimated 120,000 people filled Chicago's Soldier Field for a Mass of thanksgiving.[11]

In the Roman Martyrology, her feast day is December 22, the anniversary of her death, the day ordinarily chosen as a saint's feast day.[12] Following the reforms in Pope John XXIII's Code of Rubrics, the United States since 1961 has celebrated Cabrini's feast on November 13, the day of her beatification, to avoid conflicting with the greater ferias of Advent.

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini is the patron saint of immigrants,[13] and of the religious institute, the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará (Servidoras).[14]

Mother Cabrini is also informally recognized an effective intercessor for finding a parking space.[15]


Chicago, Illinois (National Shrine)Edit

National Shrine in Chicago

After Cabrini's death, her room at Columbus Hospital, in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood, became a popular destination for the faithful seeking personal healing and spiritual comfort. Due to the overwhelming number of pilgrims after her canonization in 1946, the then-Archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Samuel Stritch, commissioned a National Shrine built in her honor within the hospital complex. He dedicated the shrine in 1955.[16]

The hospital closed in 2002, to be replaced by a high-rise development on North Lakeview, but the shrine and Cabrini's room were preserved during the long period of demolition and construction. They were solemnly blessed and re-dedicated by Cardinal Francis George on September 30, 2012, and reopened to the public the next day. The shrine is an architectural gem of gold mosaics, Carrara marble, frescoes and Florentine stained glass, functioning as a stand-alone center for prayer, worship, spiritual care and pilgrimage.[16]

Golden, ColoradoEdit

Stone House in Golden, Colorado

In 1904, Cabrini established Denver's Queen of Heaven Orphanage for girls, including many orphans of local Italian miners. In 1910, she purchased rural property from the town of Golden, on the east slope of Lookout Mountain, as a summer camp for the girls. A small farming operation was established and maintained by three of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart. The camp dormitory, built of native rock and named the Stone House, was completed in 1914 and later listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[17]

Where Cabrini had once located an underground spring on the mountainside, a replica of the Lourdes Grotto was built in 1929, later replaced by a simpler sandstone structure. After Cabrini's canonization, the campsite officially became a shrine. Extensive additions in 1954 included a long Stairway of Prayer for pilgrims following her footpath up the mountain, marked with the Stations of the Cross, leading to a 22-foot (7 m) Statue of Jesus at the summit.[18]

In 1967, a system of foster care replaced the orphanage, and Queen of Heaven closed. The summer campsite became a year-round facility for retreats and small prayer gatherings. A new convent building, completed in 1970, includes housing for the resident Sisters, overnight accommodations for visitors, a chapel dedicated to the Sacred Heart, and an exhibit of artifacts and clothing once used by Cabrini.[17] The statues and stained-glass windows of the chapel came from Villa Cabrini Academy in Burbank, California, a former school founded by the Missionary Sisters.[18]

Manhattan, New YorkEdit

Cabrini Shrine in Manhattan

The St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Shrine in the Hudson Heights section of Manhattan overlooks the banks of the Hudson River and neighboring New Jersey. After her death in 1917, Cabrini was buried in West Park, New York. In 1933, her remains were moved to the chapel of Mother Cabrini High School in Manhattan. Following Cabrini's canonization in 1946, there were so many pilgrims coming to pray that a new shrine was built in 1957 on the school grounds. The shrine served the young women attending Mother Cabrini High School as a place for their liturgies and prayer services. Mother Cabrini High School was established in 1899. It closed June 30, 2014 after 115 years of educational service to women.[19]

The major portion of Cabrini's body was enshrined under glass in the altar of the shrine. Her remains were later moved to a large urn, and replaced by a wax effigy in the glass display. Today, the shrine continues as a center of welcome for new immigrants and pilgrims of many nationalities who come to pray and reflect.[20] The street to the west of the shrine was renamed Cabrini Boulevard in her honor.

Peru, New YorkEdit

In 1947, one year after Cabrini's canonization, a shrine was dedicated to her in Peru, New York. The shrine is a stone grotto located on the grounds of St. Patrick's, a mission church built in 1841 for Irish immigrants.[21][22]

Southwark, LondonEdit

Shrine in St George's Cathedral, Southwark

In St George's Cathedral, Southwark, which Cabrini regularly attended during her time in London, a shrine to her was dedicated in 2009, designed by brothers Theodore, James, and Gabriel Gillick. The bronze sculpture depicts the saint watching over a group of migrants standing on a pile of suitcases.[23]


Churches and parishesEdit


  • St Frances Cabrini Parish (parrocchia Santa Francesca Cabrini), Rome, Italy
  • St Frances Cabrini Parish (parrocchia Santa Francesca Cabrini), Lodi, Italy
  • St Frances Cabrini Parish (parrocchia Santa Francesca Cabrini), Codogno, Italy

United StatesEdit

Other countriesEdit

  • St Francesca Cabrini Italian Church in Bedford, England[26]

Educational institutionsEdit

Mother Cabrini High School, New York City


  • Istituto Comprensivo "F.S. Cabrini" in Milan.[27]

United StatesEdit

Other countriesEdit

  • Instituto Cabrini in Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • Colegio Santa Francisca Javier Cabrini in Madrid, Spain[29]
  • Ensemble Scolaire Françoise Cabrini in Noisy-le-Grand, France (former orphanage)


  • Christus St. Frances Cabrini Hospital in Alexandria, Louisiana, bears her name because Charles Greco, the Bishop of Alexandria at the time of its founding, shortly after her canonization, had met her when she came to visit the grade school he attended in New Orleans.
  • The former St. Cabrini Hospital (c.1946–c.2002) in Chicago, Illinois, now the site of her National Shrine.
  • The former Cabrini Medical Center (1973–2008) in Manhattan, New York City.
  • Santa-Cabrini Hospital, in the east end of Montreal, Canada, is named in her honor due to her popularity amongst Canadians of Italian descent.
  • St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Hospital, in Malvern and Brighton, Melbourne, Australia.

Other tributesEdit

  • St. Cabrini Home, West Park, New York, was Mother Cabrini's early orphanage, headquarters, and burial place.
  • The Cabrini Mission Foundation, founded in 1998, is a non-profit organization that raises funds to support Cabrini programs and institutions focused on health care, education, and social services.[30]
  • Cabrini was honored in 1996 when she was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame.[31]
  • Milan Central railway station was dedicated to Francesca Cabrini in 2010.[32]
  • Chicago's Cabrini–Green housing project, which has since been mostly torn down,[33] was 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 Cabrini Sisters still work there.
  • Mother Cabrini Park was created in Brooklyn, New York, in 1992.[34]
  • In a 2019 citywide survey, Mother Cabrini was "the leading vote-getter by far" among more than 300 nominees for the "She Built NYC" municipal statue program. When Mayor Bill de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray received widespread criticism for overriding the results of their survey, Governer Andrew Cuomo and Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio pledged their support for a public memorial.[35] It is scheduled to be built in Manhattan's Battery Park City, looking out at the immigration landmarks of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.[36]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "Our Patron Saint", St. Frances Cabrini Parish, San Jose, California.
  2. ^ a b "Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini", Lives of Saints, John J. Crawley & Co.
  3. ^ "Frances Xavier Cabrini 1850–1917", Catholic Home Study Service.
  4. ^ a b c "St. Frances Xavier Cabrini – Missionary to the Immigrants", Florida State Council, Knights of Columbus.
  5. ^ a b c Foley O.F.M., Leonard. "Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini", revised by Pat McCloskey O.F.M., Franciscan Media.
  6. ^ Rothman, Lily (July 6, 2016). "How Mother Cabrini Became the First American Saint". Faith. Time. Archived from the original on March 4, 2017. Retrieved March 4, 2017.
  7. ^ a b c "Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini", Cabrini College, Radnor, Pennsylvania.
  8. ^ "About Us", Italian Hospital Society.
  9. ^ Schapiro, Rich (2008-03-15). "Cabrini Medical Center closing doors". Daily News. Retrieved 2019-12-12.
  10. ^ Connolly, Seán (November 12, 2019). "The age of miracles has not passed". Catholic World Report.
  11. ^ Martin, Michelle (February 26, 2012). "Cabrini shrine seeing improvements, new mission" Catholic New World, Archdiocese of Chicago.
  12. ^ Martyrologium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2001). ISBN 88-209-7210-7.
  13. ^ Mann, Tania (January 6, 2008). "Relic reawakens spirit of Mother Cabrini's mission", Catholic New World, Archdiocese of Chicago.
  14. ^ "Our Patron", Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará.
  15. ^ "Saints Who Find You Parking Spaces"
  16. ^ a b "History of the Shrine". The National Shrine of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini.
  17. ^ a b Tancredo, Thomas G. (2000). "Cabrini Shrine, Golden, Colorado", The American Folklife Center, Library of Congress.
  18. ^ a b "History of Mother Cabrini Shrine", Mother Cabrini Shrine, Golden, Colorado.
  19. ^ "Mother Cabrini High School", New York.
  20. ^ "St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Shrine", New York City Chapter of the American Guild of Organists.
  21. ^ Ryan, John T. (July 14, 2012). "Renewed life and spirit at Mother Cabrini Shrine". Peru Gazette.
  22. ^ Langlois, Michael (December 9, 2015). "The Mother Cabrini Shrine". Lake Champlain Weekly.
  23. ^ "New shrine to patron saint of migrants at St George's Cathedral". London SE1. Bankside Press. November 29, 2009.
  24. ^ St. Frances Cabrini Parish in Allen Park, Michigan
  25. ^ "Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini", East River Catholics, New York, NY.
  26. ^ Italian Church of St Francesca Cabrini, Bedford
  27. ^ Istituto Comprensivo "F.S. Cabrini".
  28. ^ Cabrini High School, New Orleans, Louisiana
  29. ^ "Colegio Santa Francisca Javier Cabrini Madrid". Retrieved August 7, 2017.
  30. ^ Cabrini Mission Foundation
  31. ^ "St. Frances Xavier Cabrini", National Women's Hall of Fame.
  32. ^ Galeazzi, Giacomo (November 13, 2010). "Bertone: Noi ex migrantii" (in Italian).
  33. ^ "The Cabrini–Green Issue", The Paw Print, February 2009. Walter Payton College Preparatory High School, Chicago, Ill. Retrieved 2009-10-15.
  34. ^ "Mother Cabrini Park", New York City Department of Parks & Recreation.
  35. ^ Campanile, Carl; Brown, Lee (October 13, 2019). "Cuomo backs Cabrini statue in 'slap in the face' to de Blasio". New York Post.
  36. ^ "Mother Cabrini Statue to Grace South Cove of Battery Park City". Catholic New York. December 18, 2019.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit