Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini: The Immigrant Saint

By Monique Sammut | November 13, 2018
An Italian Beginning

Saint Francis Xavier Cabrini was born Maria Francesca Cabrini on July 15, 1850 in Italy.  She was two months premature and the youngest of thirteen children.  Only four Cabrini children survived into adulthood and Frances was sickly and delicate most of her life.

Even when Frances was little she wanted to become a religious.  She went to a school taught by the Daughters of the Sacred Heart and graduated with a teaching license.  When she was 18, she asked to enter the Daughters of the Sacred Heart but she wasn’t allowed because of her poor health.  Instead she taught in an orphanage for the next 6 years.

A New Mission

Frances made her religious vows in 1877 and took the name Sister Frances Xavier.  In November 1880, Sister Frances Xavier and six other women founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  Mother Cabrini was the Mother General of the community until her death.  The sisters served the poor by founding schools and hospitals.

Mother Cabrini wanted to become a missionary to China but instead Pope Leo XIII asked her to go the United States to help the Italian immigrants.

“Land of the Free; Home of the Brave”

On March 31, 1889, Mother Cabrini and six other sisters landed in New York City.

Even though Mother Cabrini was terrified of water as a child, she traveled across the Atlantic Ocean more than 30 times!  Things were very difficult at first, the house they were supposed to turn into an orphanage was no longer available, and the archbishop wanted them to return to Italy.  Mother Cabrini never gave up.  The sisters lived with the Sisters of Charity until they received permission to found an orphanage in New York.

Mother Cabrini founded 67 schools, orphanages, and hospitals in many states over the course of 35 years.  Throughout her life she cared for the poor, sick, and abandoned.  She cared especially for Italian immigrants to the United States.

“The Road Goes On”

In 1909, Mother Cabrini became a naturalized United States citizen.  Eight years later, on December 22, 1917, Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini died of Malaria at the age of 67 in Chicago.  She was beatified by Pope Pius XI on November 13, 1938 and canonized on July 7, 1946 by Pope Pius XII.  Her feast day is November 13 and she is the first naturalized U.S. citizen to be canonized.  She is the patron Saint of immigrants and hospital administrators.

Saint Francis Xavier Cabrini, please pray for us!

“Go often my dear ones and place yourself at the feet of Jesus.  He is our comfort, our way, and our life.”  Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini