Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini was born in Sant’ Angelo Lodigiano, Italy on July 15, 1850. She was the 13th child born to Augustine and Stella Oldini Cabrini. Frances was born two months early and, consequently, suffered from bad health all her life.
Her early education came from her older sister Rosa. Frances was later sent to a convent-school where she herself became a teacher at the age of 18. After her parents died in 1870, she tried to join the order but was prevented by her health.
Don Serrati, a friend of Frances’, petitioned the local bishop to have her sent to an orphanage known as the House of Providence. The order that ran the house had been founded by a mentally unbalanced woman named Antonia Tondini. Mother Antonia made life miserable for Frances.
Nevertheless, Frances and seven other women who had been inspired by her took their vows in 1877. Shortly after this, Frances was made the superior of the order.
She, however, had a desire to become a missionary. With the bishop’s permission, she and her seven friends founded the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on November 14, 1880.
After her congregation was approved by the Pope, Frances opened a public school and an orphanage in Rome. In 1888, the Archbishop of New York sent a personal appeal asking that she come to America and help with the many Italian immigrants.
At first, Frances was against the idea. But she later agreed after the Pope himself counseled her. She and six other nuns traveled across the Atlantic Ocean during early 1889. This journey was not easy for Frances because she suffered from aquaphobia.
When she reached New York, she discovered that nothing was ready for her and her sisters. The Archbishop had had an argument with the Countess who was supposed to fund their building projects and he now told Mother Cabrini to go back to Italy. She flatly refused and, within one month, arranged for construction of a convent and an orphanage.
Mother Cabrini ruled her congregation and the organizations it founded with an iron fist. She eventually became an American citizen and she founded more than 50 schools and hospitals for Italian-Americans. On the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of America, she founded the Columbus Hospital in New York.
Frances Cabrini wore herself out with all her work and she died in Chicago on December 22, 1917 at the age of 67. On July 7, 1946, she became the first American citizen to be canonized a saint. She is considered the patron saint of orphans and immigrants. Her feast day is November 13
Source: Butler’s Lives of the Saints