Born on July 15, 1850, in what is now Italy, Maria Francesca Cabrini felt called to religious life from a young age. She grew up with a great desire to become a missionary to China, but had chronically fragile health and was not allowed to join a religious order. She began to work as a school teacher in Italy.
By 1880 she had become the headmistress of an orphanage, and had gathered other women to join her work teaching and raising the children. This community of women formed into a new religious order, the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and dedicated themselves to tending to poor and sick children. In 1877, she made her vows and became Mother Xavier Cabrini, choosing this name in honor of St. Francis Xavier.
Pope Leo XIII assigned Mother Cabrini to go to the United States to help the Italian immigrants. She arrived for the first time in New York City on on March 31, 1889. However, her mission did not come without challenges.
When the building she planned to use for an orphanage was not available, the archbishop suggested Mother Cabrini should just go back to Italy. Determined to carry out God’s will, though, she refused to give up and founded what is now the Saint Cabrini Home.
Through her 35 years of service, Mother Cabrini opened nearly 70 orphanages, schools, and hospitals. She became a United States citizen in 1909.
Mother Cabrini died on December 22, 1917, in Chicago. She was the first United States citizen to be canonized. Her feast day is November 13 and she is the patron saint of immigrants and hospital administrators.
Get to know the great American saint through our Spotify playlist inspired by her life and legacy — featuring artists The Brilliance and Brother Isaiah, and themes of journey and welcoming others.