St. Frances Xavier Cabrini
The first American citizen to be canonized, Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, was born
in a small town in Lombardy, Italy, on July 15, 1850. Two months premature,
she remained in delicate health throughout her 67 years.
From a young age, Frances was dedicated to a life of religious work and
received a convent education. She graduated with high honors and a teaching
certificate. Frances Cabrini first joined the order of the Sisters of Providence
in 1874 where she taught at an orphanage in Cadagono, Italy. Six years later,
she began to pursue her ardent interest in serving the poor and needy by founding
the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart. In 1877, she became Mother Cabrini and added Xavier to her name in honor of St. Francis Xavier. She was sent to America by Pope Leo XIII in 1889 to provide for what was then a flood of indigent Italian immigrants.
Soon after arriving in New York City, she created an orphanage for Italian children. Shortly thereafter in 1890, she moved the orphanage out of the city to a beautiful country location at a former Jesuit novitiate in West Park, New York.
Originally named the Sacred Heart Orphan Asylum – and known today as St. Cabrini Home – it has provided a home-like atmosphere, education, and caring guidance to abandoned and wayward children from that year to now.
After establishing her first institution – St. Cabrini Home in 1890 – she embarked upon a ceaseless crisscrossing of the nation, establishing a network of educational, health care, and social service institutions for needy immigrants. Frances was known for her deep prayer life and her resourcefulness. She was always able to find people willing to donate their time, money, and support to her institutions. She became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1909.
In her lifetime, Mother Cabrini established 67 missions – schools, hospitals, orphanages, and convents from Denver to Chicago and from Los Angeles to Philadelphia - in the United States and at sites in thirteen other countries around the world!
In 1917, Mother Cabrini’s frail health finally took her life, and her body was placed at the Saint Cabrini Home. As part of her canonization process, her body was exhumed in 1931. Her head is now preserved in Rome at the chapel of the congregation’s international motherhouse. One of her arms is at the national shrine in Chicago, and the rest of her body rests at a shrine in New York. She was canonized the First American Saint in 1946. She is the patron saint of immigrants.
On December 8, 2011, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, a parishioner named Clare Gentile donated the desk of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini to the parish of St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in Dallas, Georgia. This desk was in St. Frances Xavier Cabrini’s room when she was living at Sacred Heart Villa around 1914. The desk was purchased from the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart by Mrs. Clara Gentile on May 2, 1967. This third-class relic is one of the largest remaining relics once belonging to St. Frances Xavier Cabrini.