Where was Francesca Cabrini born?

Maria Francesca Cabrini was born in Sant’ Angelo Lodigiano, Italy in 1850. Born two months prematurely, she remained in fragile health her entire life. However, she survived tuberculosis, smallpox, and malaria and ultimately lived to the age of 67.

What order did Mother Cabrini found?

Mother Cabrini founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in 1880, along with six other women. However, she considered Mary, Our Lady of Grace to be the true founder of the order. They hoped to become missionaries to China.

Photo of house in Codogno where the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus began

The mother house in Codogno, Italy

What did Mother Cabrini and the Missionary Sisters do in Italy?

Mother Cabrini and the Missionary Sisters initially taught catechism and began schools and orphanages in Italy. They ultimately had missions in 15 cities.

Why did Mother Cabrini come to America?

Mother Cabrini came to New York in 1889 to help desperately poor Italians. The initial request for her presence came in 1887 from Bishop Giovanni Battista Scalabrini of Piacenza. Scalabrini was deeply concerned about the plight of Italians who emigrated to America. Living conditions in New York were so poor that a report to Pope Leo XIII described them as having “all the characteristics of a white slave trade.”

Photo of Mother Cabrini and Missionary Sisters in NYC in 1889

Missionary Sisters in NYC in 1890

Because Mother Cabrini had always expected to be a missionary to the Far East, she met with Pope Leo XIII to seek his advice. “Not to the East, but to the West,” the Pope counseled. Mother Cabrini and six Missionary sisters promptly prepared to serve in America.
Photo of Shrine mosaic of Mother Cabrini with Pope Leo XIII

What did Mother Cabrini do in New York?

The initial work of the Missionary Sisters was among the families in the dangerous Five Points district. They taught catechism classes, opened an orphanage, and eventually administered a hospital for Italians.

Photo of Mother Cabrini with orphans in NYC

Missionary Sisters with Orphans in NYC, circa 1890

Mother Cabrini wrote, “Our mode of work is to go right down into the Italian quarters and go from house to house, from apartment to apartment… We try to learn about all the Italian children we meet, whether they have proper hoes and proper schooling. I have said that we are especially anxious about the girls just now, and the reason must be apparent. The temptations that a big city like this offers to poor, ignorant girls of any nationality are very great, and to abandoned Italian girls who have no means of livelihood and are ignorant even of the language of those around them, they are terrible.”

In 1892 the Missionary Sisters started a Free School in Brooklyn in conjunction with Sacred Hearts Parish. Then in 1899 they began a school for Italian children and orphanage in Newark, NJ at Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and a free primary school on Mott Street at Transfiguration Parish. It was also in 1899 that Mother Cabrini purchased the land at 701 Fort Washington Avenue for use as a boarding school for girls.

Where else did Mother Cabrini work in the United States?

In addition to New York City, Mother Cabrini established missions in:
Brooklyn, NY
Burbank, CA
Chicago, IL
Denver, CO
Dobbs Ferry, NY
Los Angeles, CA
Newark, NJ
New Orleans, LA
Park Ridge, IL
Philadelphia, PA
Scranton, PA
Seattle, WA
West Park, NY

Mother Cabrini also established school, hospitals and orphanages in other countries including Argentina, Brazil, England, France, Italy, Nicaragua, Panama, and Spain.

When did Mother Cabrini die?

Mother Francesca Cabrini died at the age of 67 in Chicago, of chronic endocarditis.

How did Mother Cabrini’s body end up in New York?

After she purchased land in West Park, New York in 1889, Mother Cabrini was heard to say, “I shall be buried here.” That site became a large orphanage as well as the burial ground for the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This is where her body was laid after her death.

After Mother Cabrini was named a Servant of God her remains were translated in 1933 to New York City to the chapel of Mother Cabrini High School at 701 Fort Washington Avenue.

Mass in the chapel at Mother Cabrini High School, New York

St. Frances Cabrini was canonized on July 7, 1946, and the New York Times reported that 45,000 people passed through the high school chapel that day to venerate her relics. In 1959 a separate chapel, St. Frances Cabrini Shrine, was opened adjacent to the high school, and Mother Cabrini’s remains were moved there.

Is St. Frances Cabrini’s body in the altar?

Yes, about 90% of Mother Cabrini’s remains are enclosed in the glass casket-shaped reliquary in the altar at St. Frances Cabrini Shrine. The face and the hands are sculpted out of wax. This allows us to see her as she looked in life, even as we know she is in heaven with God.