Sunday, October 3, 2010

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini (July 15, 1850 to Dec. 22, 1917)

   One evening, when I was having dinner in the hospitality center at a music festival, I noticed three adults and a little girl sitting by themselves at table. From what I could see, the other participants had no interest in speaking with them, probably because their skin was dark and they spoke minimal English.
   After filling my plate with pasta and garden salad, I joined them with three of my friends that I was at the event with. We introduced ourselves and then learned that the husband was a musician and the family was from the Cape Verde Islands. The 4-year-old girl was their granddaughter.
  They had many interesting things to talk about and I was glad that we made an effort to converse with them.  But, time and again, I notice that if people look different, be it the color of their skin or their clothing, they are often ignored.
   That was the case with my own grandfather who was an Italian immigrant that came to this country as a young boy a century ago. And just as there are people that turn away from foreigners, there are those that devote their lives to helping them have a comfortable life in a new country.
  St. Frances Xavier Cabrini (also known as Mother Cabrini) is the patron saint of immigrants. She was born Francesca Saveria Cabrini, two months premature, on July 15, 1850 in Sant'Angelo Lodigiano, Lombardy, Italy to prosperous cherry tree farmers.
  In 1877, she took her religious vows and was mother superior of the House of Providence, an orphanage in Codogno. Along with six other nuns, Mother Cabrini founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in 1880.
  Because of her efforts with the order in opening schools and homes, Pope Leo XIII sent her to New York City to help Italian immigrants in March 1889.
  Mother Cabrini founded an orphanage in New York that is known today as the Saint Cabrini Home and 66 other institutions throughout the United States, South America, and Europe.
  In Chicago, she opened the first Italian immigrant school in 1899 and founded Columbus Hospital.
  Mother Cabrini was naturalized as a United States citizen in 1909.  She died in Chicago on Dec. 22, 1917 and her body is enshrined under glass at St. Frances Cabrini Shrine in Manhattan.  On July 7, 1946, Mother Cabrini became the first American citizen to be canonized a Roman Catholic saint. Her feast day is Nov. 13.

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