St. Frances Xavier Cabrini


Mother Cabrini was born 2 months premature on July 15, 1850 in Lombardy, Italy. She later founded of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She was sent to serve Italian immigrants and orphans in the United States of America. In the course of her life she founded 67 orphanages, schools and hospitals in the US, Europe, Central and South America. She died December 22, 1917 in Chicago. She was declared a saint in 1946, and later named Universal Patroness of Immigrants.


As a child Mother Cabrini was determined to become a missionary. Because of her frail health, she was not allowed to join the women’s religious order that had bestowed her teaching certificate. So in 1880 she and seven other women founded the Institute of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The original plan was for this new order to become missionaries for China. So in 1889 the sisters went to see Pope Leo XIII to obtain permission. Surprisingly, Pope Leo instead said, “not to the East, but to the West.” The Sisters were asked to serve the Italian immigrant communities in the US, offering basic education, healthcare and spiritual support. They arrived in New York City to find it chaotic and not very welcoming. They stayed in humble living spaces and spent almost nothing to survive. Wealthy benefactors could easily see the good work the Sisters were doing and they started to donate money and property. Mother Cabrini was a shrewd business woman and very careful about all her dealings in an effort to protect and serve the weak. Eventually the Sisters came to Chicago, where there were also many Italian immigrants. Mother Cabrini traveled to Colorado, the West Coast, New Orleans and different countries in Latin America doing missionary work.


Even though Mother Cabrini was an Italian immigrant herself, she became a US citizen in 1909. And so when she was canonized a saint by Pope Pius XII in 1946, she became the first US citizen to be a saint! Despite her frail health, she accomplished quite a lot during her life. She moved to the US at the age of 40 and spent more than 25 years working tirelessly for the immigrant, orphaned and ill.

Mother Cabrini founded many institutions in Chicago including: Assumption School, Columbus Hospital, and St. Cabrini Hospital (then called Columbus Hospital Extension). Today her Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, their lay collaborators and volunteers work as teachers, nurses, social workers, administrators and members of institutional boards of trustees. The National Shrine of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini is located at 2520 N. Lakeview Ave. in Chicago.

The Feast Day of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini is November 13.

Use these suggested activities to celebrate the 100 year anniversary since Mother Cabrini’s death:

– Visit and learn about the Chicago connections to Mother Cabrini (thanks to the National Shrine of St. Frances Cabrini)

Coloring Page of Mother Cabrini (thanks to Catholic Playground)

– Learn more about Mother Cabrini with trivia questions (thanks to National Catholic Committee on Scouting)

– Try this Mother Cabrini activity to honor her legacy

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