Today the Catholic Chuch celebrates the memorial of the woman named by Pope Pius XII as the patroness of immigrants, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, the first United States citizen to be canonized.
Mother Cabrini, as she is often called, was an immigrant to the United States from Italy, although her actual desire was to bring the Gospel to China. She was urged by the bishop of Piacenza that she was more needed in the U.S. given the large number of poor Italian emigrants to the U.S. who had no one to tend to their welfare. She and her sisters settled first settled in New York in 1889, where they taught children and cared for the physical and spiritual needs of the Italian immigrant population. Over time, more of Mother Cabrini’s sisters came from Italy and their work spread across the United States. She herself traveled widely both in the U.S. and in Central and South America.
In Blessed Among All Women, Robert Ellsberg describes Mother Cabrini as never having mastered the English language and being small and unimposing in stature. But, he says, “her indomitable will, her inexhaustible energy, and her willingness to face any challenge made her an irresistible force.”
In the Opening Prayer for today’s Mass, we pray,
God our Father,
you called Frances Xavier Cabrini from Italy
to serve the immigrants of America.
By her example teach us concern for the stranger,
the sick, and the frustrated.
By her prayers help us to see Christ
in all the men and women we meet.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.