'You Did It to Me'

"In You Did It to Me, Fr. Michael Gaitley [... Read more

$14.95
Buy Now


Models of Mercy: Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini

Print this story

Share on Facebook

Share on Twitter

Comments

By Melanie Williams (Nov 13, 2017)
Mother Cabrini was the friend of three popes, a foster mother to thousands of children, and the founder of a religious order of missionary sisters that has spread throughout the world to serve anyone in need. Let's learn more about this "missionary of mercy," and consider how we can imitate her faith, courage, and zeal in serving the least among us.

Born on July 15, 1850, in the village of Sant'Angelo, outside of Milan, Italy, Francesca Cabrini was the thirteenth child in a humble farming family. Her father would read stories of missionaries to his children, and so sparked Francesca's imagination. Her dolls became nuns. When by the river, she would make paper boats, drop violets in them, call them missionaries, and send them down
the stream "off to India and China."

After completing her schooling, Francesca obtained her teaching certificate, intending to enter a religious community and become a missionary teacher in the Orient. Denied due to her frail health at the time, Francesca did not give up her desire to serve God's people.

Her local pastor sent her to reorganize a poorly run orphanage, where she obediently carried out this work with great fervor. Young women were inspired by her dedication to the sick and the poor. They began to join Cabrini in her service. Her local bishop took an interest in her and her growing number of followers. He asked her to found a missionary order of women to serve in his diocese. Francesca was now "Mother Cabrini," choosing the rule of St. Francis de Sales for her community and taking her religious name in honor of St. Francis Xavier. Her community became known as the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart.

As more young women came to join Mother Cabrini, with permission from the bishop, Mother Cabrini established a boarding school for girls in Milan. Within seven years, multiple schools and orphanages were established and run by the missionary sisters, always in places critically in need of help.

In 1887, Pope Leo XIII came to know of Mother Cabrini's work, and he asked her to establish a school in Rome. He expanded her order's ecclesiastical approval from the diocesan level to the papal level, meaning she could now establish religious houses and institutions for those in need throughout the world.

At the time, Leo XIII knew of the plight of Italian immigrants in the new world. Many were leaving their homeland only to find themselves coming into ports in North and South America where there were little or no provisions and plenty of prejudices against them. Many Italian immigrants lived in overcrowded slums where there was no health care, no schools, and no priests. While Mother Cabrini grew up dreaming of being a missionary to the Orient, Pope Leo XIII said to her, "Not to the East, but to the West."

Mother Cabrini set out with some of her young sisters for New York. She had gathered funds from numerous wealthy Italian women, which she used to open orphanages and boarding schools. Over the next 40 years Mother Cabrini made dozens of intercontinental trips, bringing new sisters and funds to places including New York, Newark, Scranton, Chicago, Denver, Seattle, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Nicaragua, Brazil, France, England, and Spain.

In Seattle, in 1909, Mother Cabrini took her oath of allegiance, becoming a citizen of the United States. Coming back from a trip from the Pacific Coast in 1917, Mother Cabrini made a stop in Chicago to see her sisters there. She suffered a heart attack during her visit and died shortly after.

Pope Francis wrote a letter to her order in September of this year in honor of the centennial of their founder's death. In it, he wrote, "[T]he Saint focused attention on situations of greatest poverty and fragility ... We must [not] forget that the missionary sensitivity of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini was not sectorial but universal; that is the vocation of every Christian and of every community of the disciples of Jesus [emphasis added]."

Being a missionary is the vocation of every Christian! This doesn't necessarily mean you are going to be traveling all over the world opening up orphanages, but you are called to bring Jesus to those most in need around you. Perhaps you are blessed like the Italian women who funded the missions of Mother Cabrini and can support missionary organizations, as you already do for the Marians. As a Friend of Mercy, you have answered the call of Jesus to St. Faustina (see Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, 742). How can you more fully answer that call this month?

Print this story

Share on Facebook

Share on Twitter

Comments

Be a part of the discussion. Add a comment now!