Fr. Luigi, glancing out the window, noticed his little niece sitting by a bubbling stream, sending off small paper boats down the brook.

Curious, he approached his niece and, as he came closer, observed her placing purple violets into each one, before gently pushing them off.

“What is it you’re doing, Little One?” he questions.

Blushing, she responds, “Well, Uncle, the violets are missionaries who I’m sending off far and wide, to China and beyond, where they are bringing the love of Christ to those who have not experienced it…”

Little did she know she was prophesizing her very own future.

“I will go anywhere and do anything in order to communicate the love of Jesus to those who do not know Him or have forgotten Him.” ~ Mother Cabrini


In 1850, Maria Francesca Cabrini was born in what was then the Austrian Empire, in a small town near Milan, Italy. She was the runt of the family, being the last of 13! Unfortunately, her family was plagued by bad health, and only four of them survived into adulthood.

Clearly inspired by God at a young age, at the age of 18, she chased her vocation and made a request to join the convent, but the sisters, fearing she wouldn’t be able to handle the convent life with her bad health, denied her entry.

Persistent and not easily discouraged, she became the headmistress of an orphanage in Codogno, and there her good work attracted others. Growing in numbers, she founded an order, the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, where each member took vows. She herself wrote the Rule and Constitution of the order. Gaining inspiration from St. Francis Xavier, she took the name of Frances.

They began their work in earnest and, within 5 years, they established seven homes, a free school, and a nursey. To help pay expenses and to keep their services free, they sold fine embroidery on the side.

Eager to expand their charity work, they traveled to Rome and asked the Pope if they could establish missions in China. The Pope recognized their holiness and ambition, but directed them elsewhere, “Not to the East, but to the West!”

And across the Atlantic they sailed.


Arriving in New York City in 1889, they were a band of seven. After meeting initial resistance from the local bishop, their work blossomed and spread rapidly, especially helping the many Italian immigrants who had moved there.

Over the past decade, over a million Italians had moved to America to escape poverty, but the environment wasn’t much better in the US. There were few priests that spoke Italian and the living conditions were just miserable. Sheds for houses, 12-hour work shifts for pennies in exchange, and little to no education or healthcare for the children.

The need was great, and Mother Cabrini responded to it. Going door to door gathering funds, often being hit with insults and humiliating comments, she persisted, and somehow established an orphanage for the many disadvantaged kids, followed by several schools and a hospital.

“Today, love must not be hidden. It must be living, active, and true!” ~ Mother Cabrini

And she didn’t stop there! Moving on west, she went from city to city, state to state, answering in remarkable speeds the various necessities of each place, from catechism classes to homeless shelters to clinics. As soon as she finished one project, she moved on to wherever she was needed next, producing whatever was needed in the area, no matter the odds. This was especially significant for the time, because social services were not existent and most of these people had nowhere else to go.

And on and on she went.

In just 34 years, she founded 67 institutions, from schools to orphanages to hospitals. She was resourceful and persistent, always able to get donations or find ways to raise funds for her various projects, which spanned from Denver, Seattle, New Orleans, Los Angeles, etc., and into Latin America and Europe! Throughout her life, she made 23 trans-Atlantic crossings in order to expand her charity work.

“We spend millions but haven’t a cent. We draw from the Bank of Providence. Its funds are inexhaustible.” ~ Mother Cabrini

She spent a considerable amount of time in Chicago, which is where she considered her home. There she established two hospitals and had a huge impact on the poor and disadvantaged. After her canonization, there were so many pilgrims visiting her convent room in Columbus Hospital, that the bishop had a shrine built there in her honor. It is still there to this day.

The Archbishop of Chicago, Cardinal Stritch, had this to say about St. Frances:

“She loved us. She was our benefactress. She rode our street cars. She went begging in our streets. Through alleys she went in search of little hungry children who were homeless and friendless. The very day she died she had been wrapping candy for Christmas gifts for poor children.”


In 1917, at age 67, in the hospital she founded, she died of complications from malaria. She was naturalized a US citizen in 1909 and canonized a saint in 1946, the very first US citizen to be declared a saint.

There are over 60 churches, schools, and hospitals named in her honor. Today, her order, Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, can be found on six continents and 17 countries throughout the world, still serving the poor.

In celebration of her canonization, a holy hour was held at Soldier Field (the Chicago Bears Stadium) where over a 120,000 people attended in her honor!

Mother Cabrini, infused with a contagious energy and overwhelming ambition, visualized and yearned to spread Catholicism everywhere through her charitable work, and that she did. Affecting tens of thousands of people all over the world, living her entire life for others, she is a true inspiration. What would the world look like if just a few of us had even a fraction of her commitment? How many souls could be saved? How many people could be exposed to the love of Christ?

“Did a Magdalene, a Paul, a Constantine, an Augustine become mountains of ice after their conversion? Quite the contrary. We should never have had these prodigies of conversion and marvelous holiness if they had not changed the flames of human passion into volcanoes of immense love of God.” ~ Mother Cabrini