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. 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, and at 18 she was certified as a teacher. Four years later she contracted smallpox, and because of this, she was refused admission into that order and into the Canossians as well. Finally, she took religious vows in 1877, becoming the Mother Superior of the House of Providence orphanage in Codogno, where she was teaching.
In 1880, the orphanage was closed and she became one of the seven founding members of the Institute of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (MSC). 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. 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, 701 Fort Washington Avenue, in the Manhattan neighborhood of Hudson Heights. The street to the west of the shrine was renamed Cabrini Boulevard in her honour.
Patronage: immigrants, hospital administrators