Frances Xavier Cabrini (Mother Cabrini)
Frances Xavier Cabrini (Mother Cabrini)
Date of Birth
Born 1850 Died 1917
Credit Suzanne Fasing, Dante Alighieri Society of Denver.
Frances Xavier Cabrini, also known as Mother Cabrini, was a missionary nun who was a great humanitarian and a champion of immigrants, children, and the poor. During her missionary work, she established 67 schools, orphanages, hospitals and social service agencies throughout the United States, including several in Colorado, and in eight other countries. Frances Cabrini was born in Italy in 1850. She received a well-rounded education, and her first profession was a schoolteacher. She was fascinated by stories of missionaries and resolved to join a religious order. But as a young woman, she was not permitted to join two orders of religious nuns because of her frail health. Frances did not give up her dream, and she was eventually accepted by a different order of nuns. Then at the age of 30, she founded a new order of nuns, the Institute of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and she became known as Mother Cabrini. Her Institute established several orphanages and schools in Italy which had a reputation for scholastic quality and spiritual and character development.
In 1889, Mother Cabrini met with the Pope in Rome who sent her on a mission to New York to help the masses of Italian immigrants who were living in harsh conditions. Upon her arrival in New York City, she overcame obstacles to establish a sorely-needed orphanage for more than 400 orphans of Italian immigrants. Mother Cabrini also opened schools for children of impoverished Italian immigrants, and a hospital in New York City that cared for people with highly contagious and deadly diseases who were not accepted at other local hospitals. Soon, requests to open schools came to Mother Cabrini from all over the world. She traveled to Europe, Central and South America, and throughout the United States for her humanitarian work.
In 1902, Mother Cabrini was asked to come to Colorado to assist Italian immigrants, many of whom did dangerous work in the mines near Denver. That year, Mother Cabrini opened a school for more than 200 children of Italian immigrants in north Denver, which was affiliated with Mount Carmel Church. Many of these children had never attended school before. As school enrollment grew, the school moved to bigger locations in north Denver and continued to educate children until the 1960’s.
In 1904, Mother Cabrini founded an orphanage at a home in north Denver because many children of Italian immigrants were orphaned when their fathers died in mining accidents. As the need grew to care for orphans, Mother Cabrini purchased a larger home in north Denver for 160 children, which she named the Queen of Heaven orphanage. In 1921, a new and much larger facility was built at the north Denver location. It is estimated that 20,000 girls spent time at the Queen of Heaven orphanage between 1904 and 1967, when foster care replaced orphanages.
In 1910, Mother Cabrini purchased land in Jefferson County which served as a summer camp for the orphan girls from Queen of Heaven orphanage until 1967. The property purchased by Mother Cabrini in Golden has served as a Shrine in her honor since 1946. The Shrine welcomes more than 100,000 visitors a year.
Mother Cabrini had a strong religious faith that was the foundation of her life. She was remarkable for her keen intellect, and a rare combination of vision and practicality, and the tenacity to overcome her frail health. Mother Cabrini’s humanitarian work was relentless until her death in 1917. She was canonized as a saint in 1946, and is recognized as the patron saint of immigrants. In 2020, the Colorado Legislature created a new state holiday, Frances Xavier Cabrini Day, observed on the first Monday of October, which honors her contributions to the State of Colorado.