IMAGE: CNS photo/Gregory A. Shemitz
By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Although she died 100 years ago, St.
Frances Cabrini is a shining example of “love and intelligence” in
ministering to the needs of immigrants and helping them become integral members
of their new homelands, Pope Francis said.
Responding to “the great migrations underway today”
the same way Mother Cabrini did “will enrich all and generate union and
dialogue, not separation and hostility,” Pope Francis said in a letter to Sister
Barbara Louise Staley, superior of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of
Jesus, which the saint founded.
Mother Cabrini arrived in New York in 1889 to work with
Italian immigrants, setting up orphanages, schools and hospitals in nine U.S.
cities. Naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 1909, she died in Chicago Dec. 22,
The Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus were holding
their general assembly Sept. 17-23 at the National Shrine of St. Frances Xavier
Cabrini in Chicago.
In her work, particularly among Italian immigrants to the
United States, Mother Cabrini “focused attention on situations of greatest
poverty and fragility, such as the needs of orphans and miners,” the pope
wrote in his letter, which was released at the Vatican Sept. 19.
Mother Cabrini also demonstrated “a lucid cultural
sensitivity” by making sure she was in constant contact with local authorities,
the pope said.
“She undertook to conserve and revive in the immigrants
the Christian tradition they knew in their country of origin, a religiosity
which was sometimes superficial and often imbued with authentic popular
mysticism,” he wrote. “At the same time, she offered ways to fully
integrate with the culture of the new countries so that the Missionary Mothers
accompanied the Italian immigrants in becoming fully Italian and fully
With dialogue and help integrating, he said, “the human
and Christian vitality of the immigrants thus became a gift to the churches and
to the peoples who welcomed them.”
While Mother Cabrini and the sisters had a specific mission
to assist the immigrants and strengthen their faith, he said, Catholics today
cannot forget “that is the vocation of every Christian and of every
community of the disciples of Jesus.”
On a more personal note, Pope Francis told the sisters,
“I assure you of my remembrance and prayers with deep affection, both
because I have always known the figure of Mother Cabrini and because of the
special concern I devote to the cause of immigrants.”
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