Who is St. Frances Xavier Cabrini? Some may know her as the first American saint, others may remember her as the foundress of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In Radnor, many know her as the reason we have a place to call this campus our home, the name we proudly wear across our chests when we win yet another CSAC championship title and the reason we receive an education of the heart.
Yet how many remember Mother Cabrini as the patron saint of immigrants? As a fierce advocate for humans of all skin tones and as a humanitarian with a deep passion for promoting the dignity and rights of every person no matter what their background may be?
Maria Francesca Cabrini was born in 1850 in Italy where she dreamt her entire life of becoming a missionary in China. Pope Leo XIII had other plans, however, and sent young Frances not to the East, but to the West to work among Italian Immigrants in New York City.
At the time, Italians were leaving their homeland by the thousands for many of the same reasons immigrants are forced to migrate to this very day.
Mother Cabrini’s lifetime was known as the “new immigration” era in which over 3 million Italians made the perilous journey to seek refuge in America.
At the time, this was viewed as one of the largest population shifts in history.
Fast-forward to 2016 and we are witnessing the biggest refugee and displacement crisis of our time
The war in Syria has killed over 400,000 Syrians, and displaced more than 12 million civilians.
Millions of people have not only lost their homes but the hope for their futures, and their children’s future.
This harsh reality cannot be all that far off from the very same factors that forced our grandparents and great grandparents to leave their homelands with hope for a better tomorrow for you and me.
Even though for some, a tomorrow was not always guaranteed.
In fact many of the extreme hardships, racism and downright unfair treatment that our ancestors faced is very similar to those of the Syrians this very day.
Long, treacherous sometimes unbearable, journeys across the ocean, prejudice and extreme poverty upon arrival. Language barriers, religious differences, threats and cold-heartedness.
Upon her arrival to the United States until the day she died, Mother Cabrini and her sisters dedicated their entire lives to serving, loving and helping the immigrants that they encountered.
This fierce dedication to compassion, bravery and love lead to the founding of 67 institutions – schools, hospitals and orphanages in New York, Chicago, Denver, New Orleans as well as in several continents all over the world (Europe, North, Central and South America).
She also crossed the ocean 25 times despite a severe fear of water due to almost drowning as a child and traveled constantly despite her frail health to carry out her work.
In 1880, Pope Leo desperately urged for the care of the Italian immigrants coming to the United States much like Pope Francis does today.
In fact last September upon his visit to Philadelphia, Pope Francis stated, “Many of you have immigrated to this country at great personal cost, in the hope of building a new life. Do not be discouraged by whatever hardships you face. I ask you not to forget that, like those who came here before you, you bring many gifts to this nation. … I think in particular of the vibrant faith which so many of you possess, the deep sense of family life and all those other values which you have inherited. By contributing your gifts, you will not only find your place here, you will help to renew society from within. …”
However, how many of us ignore this call and continue to turn our backs on those who need us the most? How many of us would go above and beyond our call, like Mother Cabrini did, to serve others?
The Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (the order founded by Mother Cabrini) recently backed an official statement made by The Leadership Conference of Women Religious regarding their stance on the topic of the Syrian Refugee Crisis. According to the sisters, it echoes their Corporate Stance on behalf of Immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers.
For Loquitur Media, the most important line in the statement reads as follows, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Mt 7:12). This rule points us in a clear direction. Let us treat others with the same passion and compassion with which we want to be treated. Let us seek for others the same possibilities that we seek for ourselves. Let us help others to grow, as we would like to be helped ourselves. In a word, if we want security, let us give security; if we want life, let us give life; if we want opportunities, let us provide opportunities. The yardstick we use for others will be the yardstick which time will use for us.”
With an election right around the corner and a crisis on our hands that seems to be getting worse by the day Loquitur urges everyone reading this article to open your hearts, educate your minds and to reach beyond your comfort zone to realize that this is in fact our problem and our chance to make a difference no matter how large or small that may be.
In the words of our hero, friend and the reason we are writing this article today, “Take to heart the interests of the poor immigrants and direct them well when they land on these shores.” –St. Frances Xavier Cabrini.