The American Catholic Almanac, co-written by Brian Burch and Emily Stimpson, is a daily reader of American Catholics who changed the United States. From the American founding through the present day, the book follows saints and sinners, heroes, children, politicians, athletes, and artists who all have one thing in common: their Catholic faith. Get your copy here!
As a child in Northern Italy, Frances Cabrini looked forward to the stories her father told each night about the missionaries and martyrs of the Church. Her favorite stories were about the missionaries who went to China. Despite her chronically bad health, Cabrini dreamed that one day, she too would serve the Church there.
But, it wasn’t to be. First, her hopes were dashed by the religious orders that turned her away because of her poor health. Later, after she formed her own religious order, the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, those hopes were dashed by the pope himself. The thirty- seven- year- old Cabrini had served as Mother Superior of
her order for seven years when she went to Rome in 1887, seeking permission to take her sisters to China. Pope Leo XIII, however, had different ideas.
“Not to the East,” the pope told her, “but to the West.” Mother Cabrini did as instructed, and soon left with six of her sisters for New York City, where Archbishop Michael Corrigan needed help caring for Italian immigrants. She arrived in New York on March 31, 1889.
Within two years, Mother Cabrini and her sisters had opened two orphanages for Italian children in New York. Soon, they added a third orphanage; this one was in New Orleans. Next, back in New York, they opened a hospital for the Italian poor, then more hospitals and orphanages in Chicago and Seattle.
In the years that followed, Mother Cabrini was seemingly everywhere, opening 67 orphanages, hospitals, and schools in New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Louisiana, Colorado, California, and Washington, as well as Italy, France, England, Spain, Brazil, Argentina, and Nicaragua. Given that, it’s little wonder that after her death in 1917, it took less than 30 years for the Church to declare Mother Cabrini a saint. That happened on July 7, 1946, making her the first American to enter the Church’s canon.
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