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St. Frances Xavier Cabrini

Patron of Immigrants

1850 – 1917

Feast Day: November 13

Frances Xavier Cabrini was born in Lombardi, Italy in 1850, one of thirteen children. America claims her as a saint because Mother Cabrini became an American citizen in 1909.

Her life was filled with difficulties and setbacks. In Italy, she tried to enter several religious communities, but they all refused to accept her because her health was poor. Thus, she stayed home and helped her parents until they passed away. She worked on the farm with her brothers and sisters; from there she went, at a priest’s request, to teach at a school for six years.

After teaching, she began working with five other women at an orphanage in Italy, when the bishop closed the orphanage. However, at the request of her bishop, she founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart to care for poor children in schools and hospitals.

She petitioned Pope Leo XIII, asking him if she and her companions could go to China as missionaries. He said no, and sent her instead to the United States. She went to the United States with six nuns, in 1889, to work among the Italian immigrants.

When she arrived in New York, the bishop advised her to return to Italy. However, she remained in New York, founded schools, hospitals, and an orphanage to aid Italian immigrants and children.

At the time of her death, at Chicago, Illinois on December 22, 1917, her institute numbered houses in England, France, Spain, the United States, and South America. In 1946, Pope Pius XII canonized her, making her the first American citizen to be canonized.

When speaking about the need and value of total consecration to the service of God and neighbor, and embracing the state of virginity, such as St. Frances Xavier Cabrini did, in the Encyclical Sacra Virginitas (on Consecrated Virginity) His Holiness Pope Pius XII asks the following:

    “How, for example, could a missionary such as the wonderful St. Francis Xavier, a father of the poor such as the merciful St. Vincent de Paul, a zealous educator of youth like St. John Bosco, a tireless ‘mother of emigrants’ like St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, have accomplished such gigantic and painful labors, if each had to look after the corporal and spiritual needs of a wife or husband and children?”

Mother Cabrini gave abundantly. The fruit of her virginity was not only in her external works, which she performed devoutly and perfectly, but also in her prayer life which she offered for others, and in the trials she willingly and generously endured for their sake. Through her vow of virginity is found her sanctity, expressed in perfect forms of charity toward her neighbor.

The Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart still exist today. Their aim is still to spread devotion to the Heart of Jesus by means of the practice of spiritual and corporal works of mercy. The Sisters still conduct homes for the aged and the sick, orphanages, and practical schools which include sewing classes; they visit hospitals and prisons, and give religious instruction in their convents for people who wish to make retreats.

A word from Mother Cabrini to meditate on:

    “God knew you all my children and from all ages of eternity, He loved you. You must be very good, to have deserved the attention of the Blessed Trinity, the great Lord God… God does not give life for nothing. You must each look into yourselves, into your hearts, into your lives, to study and see why God brought you here. You mustn’t waste that gift of life — ever!”

The sources for this article were compiled using the following material:

The Children’s Book of Saints

St. Frances Cabrini

The Catholic Encyclopedia, “Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus”, retrieved from

Related Links:

Epistle and Gospel for November 13

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