“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.”
Saint Frances was born as Maria Francesca Cabrini on July 15th, 1850 in Sant'Angelo Lodigiano in a territory that was at the time a part of the Austrian Empire. The youngest of thirteen children, she was only one of four siblings to survive into adulthood. Saint Frances herself was born two months early and suffered from a very delicate health through the rest of her life. She often visited her uncle Don Luigi Oldini of Livagra, a Catholic Priest. She would make small boats of paper put them in canal, saying they were missionaries on the way to China and India.
Her parents died shortly after Saint Frances graduated cum laude with a teaching certificate from a school run by the Daughters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She applied for admission to the Daughters of the Sacred Heart at Arluno but was turned down due to her frail health and instead took up the role as headmistress at the house of Providence orphanage in Codogno. A small community of women was formed there who all wished to live a religious life. Saint Frances took religious vows in 1877 and added Xavier to her name to honor Saint Francis Xavier (the patron Saint of Missionaries).
In Novamber of 1880, the women (8 including Saint Frances) who had taken religious vows together founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, taking in orphans, founding a day school, and started classes in needlework to sell fine embroidery for income. In the first five years, the sisters founded seven homes, a free school, and a nursery. In 1887, Saint Frances asked Pope Leo XIII for permission to begin establishing missions in China with the Sisters. The Pope, urging the Sisters instead to go to the United States in an effort to support the massive number of Italian immigrants there said:
"Not to the East, but to the West!"
She arrived in New York City on March 31st, 1889. Her and the other six sisters that arrived with her found housing at the convent of the Sisters of Charity and founded the Sacred Heart Orphan Asylum in West Park, New York (later called the Saint Cabrini Home). The sisters organized education and catechism classes for Italian Immigrants and took care of uncounted numbers of orphans and poor. The sisters founded 67 missionary institutions in New York, Chicago, Des Plains, Seattle, New Orleans, Denver, Golden, Los Angeles and Philadelphia before expanding to Latin American and European countries. They opened Columbus Hospital in Lincoln Park and the Columbus Extension Hospital.
While aiding the sisters in preparing candy to give away to children for Christmas, Saint Frances passed away of complications stemming from Malaria on December 22nd, 1917. She was formally beatified on November 13th, 1938 by Pope Pius XI and canonized just a few years later by Pope Pius XII (July 7th, 1946).
One of the miracles attributed to her canonization was that of Peter Smith - as a day old baby, a nurse accidentally used a 50% silver nitrate solution instead of the standard 1% solution. The nurse immediately recognized the mistake and ran down the hall, screaming
Sister, Sister come and do something. I've done a dreadful thing. Get a doctor!
Peter was evaluated by two doctors and an eye specialist who all reached the same conclusion - there was no healing possible as the retinas were destroyed. The Superior of the hospital touched a relic of Saint Frances to Peter's eyes and prayed with the nurse in front of the Blessed Sacrament begging for Mother Cabrini's intercession. The following day, the doctor came on his rounds only to find the eyesight of Peter completely and miraculously restored. The joy turned again to fear though as the small baby began to suffer from pneumonia, with a fever reaching 108 degrees. The sisters prayed again for a miracle, for Saint Frances's intercession - overnight the pneumonia completely disappeared and Peter had no further medical issues. Peter left the hospital with vesigium miracoli (the traces of the miracle) upon his face - two scars from where the silver nitrate ran down from his eyes.
Peter and his younger brother Frances Xavier both grew to be priests. Peter, at the age of 17 during a broadcast on Vatican Radio during the beatification ceremony said:
“I, for one, know for certain that the age of miracles has not passed.”