Mother Cabrini was born Maria Francesca Cabrini on July 15, 1850 in Lombardy, Italy. She began her ministry as a teacher, but was drawn to religious life. In 1880, she founded the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (MSC), one of the first orders of women missionaries.
In 1889, under the direction of Pope Leo XIII, Mother Cabrini traveled to America to help underserved Italian immigrants. She proceeded to found schools, orphanages, hospitals and social services institutions to serve the needs of immigrants in the United States and other parts of the world. Despite poor health and frailty, Mother Cabrini crossed the ocean 25 times during 29 years of missionary work, and with her sisters founded 67 institutions in nine countries on three continents – one for each year of her life.
Mother Cabrini was a collaborator from the start of her missionary activity. She was a woman of her time, yet beyond her time. Her message – “all things are possible with God” – is as alive today as it was 110 years ago. Mother Cabrini lived and worked among the people, poor and rich alike, using whatever means were provided to support her works. She was a progressive, strategic visionary, willing to take risks, adaptable to change, and responsive to every opportunity that arose to help others. In recognition of her extraordinary service to immigrants, Mother Cabrini was canonized in 1946 as the “first American saint,” and was officially declared the Universal Patroness of Immigrants by the Vatican in 1950.