Yes, Mother Cabrini Wore Dentures!
Every now and then someone comes into the Shrine who has a direct relationship to Mother Cabrini. This month we greeted a gentleman named Michael Ragaini. Mike came in and began to tell us about his grandfather Hugo, a dentist. In 1914 Hugo Ragaini had a dental office down in the west 50s. It was later razed to make way for Rockefeller Center.
Mike told us his grandfather had made a set of false teeth for Mother Cabrini.
“Wait!” we exclaimed, “We know about that! We have the denture spring from her old set!”
“What?”Mr. Ragaini asked, shocked.
We quickly steered him to a display case in the hallway. There it was: a handwritten note from someone who turned out to be Mike’s uncle, next to a gold spring. The note explained that when Mother Cabrini needed new dentures she went to Hugo Ragaini for a new set. She was so pleased with Hugo’s work that she gave him the spring left over from the dentures she’d had made in France.
We don’t know if Hugo knew Mother Cabrini before she entered his dental office, but as an Italian in New York he certainly knew of her. Perhaps that is what compelled him to save the unusual gift she gave him. The family treasured the denture spring for decades. When Mother Cabrini was canonized 36 years later the Ragaini family knew it possessed a one-of-a-kind second-class relic.
Mike and his family visited the Shrine when he was young, but he hadn’t been back in many years. He didn’t know about his uncle’s note, which said that decades later Mike’s father fell gravely ill. Naturally, the whole family prayed to Mother Cabrini. Against steep odds, his father survived. By way of thanks, the family then donated the denture spring and the story behind it to the Shrine.
Curiously, the note itself had been lost for many years, and we did not know the full story until recently. We only found it a month or so before Mike Ragaini’s visit.