Frances Xavier Cabrini (July 15, 1850 – December 22, 1917), also called Mother Cabrini, was the first American citizen to be canonized by the Roman Catholic Church. She was born in Sant’Angelo Lodigiano, Lombardy, the youngest of thirteen children. Two months premature, she remained in delicate health throughout her 67 years. In 1868, at age 18, she was certified as a teacher. Four years later she contracted smallpox. When she tried to enter into the Daughters of the Sacred Heart, she was refused admission because of her frail health. Having been rejected by the Canossians as well, she supported her parents until they died and helped the family on the farm. She taught at a private school and, in 1871, became a public school teacher in a nearby village. Francesca Cabrini took religious vows in 1877 and added Xavier to her name to honor the Jesuit priest, Francis Xavier. She became the mother superior of the House of Providence orphanage in Codogno, where she taught. In 1880, the orphanage was closed and—although her lifelong dream was to be a missionary in China—she was sent to New York on March 31, 1889, to help the Italian immigrants in our city. She founded an orphanage, which is located in West Park, New York, today and is known as Saint Cabrini Home, the first of dozens of institutions she founded in New York, Chicago, Des Plaines, Seattle, New Orleans, Denver, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and in countries throughout South America and Europe. In Chicago, she also transformed a former hotel in the heart of the city into Columbus Hospital in 1905, where she lived, worked and died of complications from malaria at age 67. (The hospital closed in the late 1990s, but a national shrine to her work and mission remains in Chicago.) Frances Cabrini was naturalized as an American citizen in 1909, beatified on November 13, 1938, and canonized on July 7, 1946, by Pope Pius XII. St. Frances Xavier Cabrini is the patron saint of immigrants.
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