UCAN Spirituality Catholic Church News

St Frances Xavier Cabrini

Italy, United States of America

Frances Xavier Cabrini was the first citizen of the United States of America be canonized a saint in the Catholic Church. She was born in Lombardi in Italy in 1850, one of thirteen children. At the age of 18, she wanted to join the congregation of nuns that had taught her at school, but she was not admitted because of her poor health. She then helped her parents until their death, and worked on a farm with her brothers and sisters.

One day a priest asked her to teach in an orphanage in Cadagno, and there she stayed for six years. When the bishop closed the orphanage in 1880, he named Frances prioress of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart. Seven young women from the orphanage joined her to care for poor children in schools and hospitals. Then Pope Leo XIII asked her to go to the United States with six nuns in 1889 to work among the Italian immigrants. When she arrived in New York City, the house intended to be her first orphanage was not available and she was advised her to return to Italy. But Frances became all the more determined to establish that orphanage. And she did.

In 35 years, filled with a deep trust in God and endowed with a wonderful gift for administration, Frances Xavier Cabrini founded 67 institutions dedicated to caring for the poor, the abandoned, the uneducated and the sick. Seeing great need among Italian immigrants who were losing their faith, she organized schools and adult education classes.

As a child, she was always frightened of water, unable to overcome her fear of drowning. Yet, despite this fear, she traveled across the Atlantic Ocean more than 30 times. She died of malaria in her own Columbus Hospital in Chicago.

At the time of her death in 1917, her institute had spread to England, France, Spain, the United States, and South America.