Mission to America

Maria Francesca Cabrini was born on July 15, 1850 in Sant’Angelo Lodigiano in Lombardy. She was premature and the youngest of 13 children. Only three of her siblings survived into adulthood.

She was educated at a school run by the Daughters of the Sacred Heart. She later applied to join the religious congregation but was rejected due to ill health. Eventually she became the headmistress of the House of Providence orphanage in Codogno, where she also drew a small community of women to live a religious way of life. She took vows in 1877.

In 1880 she founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The new congregation established seven homes and a free school and nursery in its first five years, attracting the attention of Pope Leo XIII.

Cabrini asked the Pope if she could establish a mission in China but he told her to go to America to help Italian immigrants. On arrival, she organised catechism and education classes for Italian immigrants. By the end of her life, in 1917, she had founded 67 institutions across America, South America and Europe.

In 1931 Cabrini’s body was exhumed as part of the canonisation process. Her head was removed and is preserved in the chapel of the congregation’s international motherhouse in Rome.

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