Cabriniana room offers history of Mother Cabrini

By Jennifer Coots
October 26, 2000

Mike Fenn

by Jennifer Coots

Imagine being able to walk into the life of Mother Cabrini, right now, and learning everything you could possible know about her and her fabulous life. Thanks to the Cabriniana room located upstairs in the Holy Spirit Library, students and faculty are able to do just this.

The Cabriniana room, which has been up and running for 18 years, primarily focuses on the life of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini and the Italian-American experience since she arrived in America in 1889. Sister Mary Louise Sullivan is the curator of the room and Letitia Principato is the assistant curator.

An array of wonderful items fill the Cabriniana room, including many of Mother Cabrini’s writings, copies of her teaching certificate, baptismal record and even gifts she received from Pope Leo XIII. There are also numerous photographs of Mother Cabrini and her missionary sisters, who were a religious order of women, displayed throughout the room.

Books are abundantly lined on bookshelves with several acid-free boxes filled with her convent diaries and other artifacts. Thirteen volumes of books overflowing with letters that Mother Cabrini wrote from 1890 to 1917 are available. Although all of the letters are written in Italian, some have been translated to English. Biographies of Mother Cabrini’s life are written in several languages that range from Italian, French, Portuguese, Spanish and English and are arranged accordingly around the room.

An original habit, the uniform that Mother Cabrini and the missionary sisters wore, is modeled in a corner.

“The Cabriniana room is the center of immigration studies, particularly Italian immigration,” Sullivan said, who completed a doctoral dissertation on Mother Cabrini. “The room is a work in progress. We would be very happy to have people drop in on Tuesdays to explore the room.”

Behaving as a comprehensive research center for Mother Cabrini and other women’s studies, some have completed extensive research in the sanctuary. “I wrote most of my thesis on Mother Cabrini based on the abundance of information I found in this room,” Principato said. “The Cabriniana room is a special collection of the library that not many people know about. It’s the best kept secret here on campus.”

Sister Ursula Infante, who founded Cabrini College in 1957 and is 103 years old, spent a total of 10 years working in the Cabriniana room during the mid-`80s. She took thousands of letters and translated them from Italian to English. Ursula lived in the Mansion on campus and worked on the letters everyday for several hours at a time.

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Jennifer Coots

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