The First US Citizen to Become a Saint was An Italian-American

Mother Cabrini is a celebrated figure in the Italian-American culture. Here is her story.

When it comes to Catholic saints, people tend to assume they all lived hundreds of years ago, way before modern times. However, devoted Catholics know that saints are being canonized all the time, including those who lived only 100 years ago. In fact, the first US Citizen to be canonized died in 1917. Her name was Mother Cabrini, and she was an Italian immigrant. 

Born on July 15, 1850, Frances Cabrini was raised in a small village outside of Milan. She loved hearing the stories about far off missionaries and decide early on that she had a religious calling. Cabrini studied with the Daughters of the Sacred Heart and earned her teaching certificate through them before attempting to join their order. However, she was turned away. 

After this rejection, Cabrini moved onto the House of Providence Orphanage and eventually made her vows there in 1877. Some years later, the orphanage was closed, but the bishop names Cabrini prioress of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart. 

This appointment took her, along with six other women, to New York City to set up a new orphanage and work with the Italian immigrants in the area. Cabrini faced many challenges when she arrived. One such challenge was the building selected for the new orphanage was unavailable. Upon hearing the news, the bishop advised Cabrini to return, but she was determined to make their plans a reality. 

Cabrini not only succeeded in opening the orphanage, but also went on to establish 67 institutions dedicated to the poor, orphaned, and sick. She also organized schools and adult education courses. Her work took her across the Atlantic Ocean 23 times and took her to Europe, Central, and South America.

Mother Cabrini remained active up until her death on December 22, 1917. In 146, she was canonized by Pope Pius XII and was named the Patroness of Immigrants in 1950. 

It was because of Cabrini’s works that so many Italian immigrants thrived in the United States. Without her guiding hand, who knows where the present generation of Italian-Americans would be. 


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