Who Was the Real Mother Cabrini?


  • Mother Cabrini dedicated her life to helping those in need, establishing numerous institutions for the poor and children in the United States and abroad.
  • Her legacy lives on through the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, who continue to provide essential services to marginalized communities.
  • Mother Cabrini’s miracles, including restoring sight to a blinded child, solidified her reputation as a saint and a beacon of hope for many.

The story of Mother Cabrini may be something akin to a miracle. She was a person of great moral wisdom and personal achievements that benefited hundreds, if not thousands, of people. The film of her life, aptly named Cabrini, was released in March 2024, but it is important to know the history of her life before seeing the glorified Hollywood treatment. Especially when the real story is so astounding.

Mother Cabrini brought many things with her to America, one of which was the need to assist and put others before herself. This was something that started very young and has had an impact well beyond her death. But who was this woman, and why is she seen as a saint in the Catholic Church?



Release Date
March 8, 2024

Alejandro Monteverde

Cristiana Dell’Anna , David Morse , Romana Maggiora Vergano , Federico Ielapi , Virginia Bocelli , Rolando Villazón , Giancarlo Giannini , John Lithgow

145 Minutes

Rod Barr , Alejandro Monteverde

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Cabrini Was a Sister With Big Dreams

Mother Cabrini, also known as Francis Xavier Cabrini, was an Italian religious sister. She was not a nun, as nuns spend their lives secluded in monastic life while sisters engage in public work in the community. Cabrini was born Maria Francesca Cabrini in 1850. She was considered a smaller, weaker child, to the point that when she turned twenty and applied to be a sister at the Daughters of the Sacred Heart, the sisters there told her that she was not strong enough for their way of life. She was undeterred and seven years later would take her religious vows and become a sister. This was how she chose her new name to honor the patron saint of missionaries, Francis Xavier.

Cabrini dreamed of becoming a missionary in China but was influenced by Pope Leo XIII in 1887 to instead make her way to the United States. He asked that she take particular care of Italian immigrants who were flooding cities such as New York and often living in poverty. She took this as a worthy mission and, along with six of her fellow sisters, made her way to New York City to start what would become her life’s work.

Meeting Goals With Personal Strength

To say that New York City was in need of the sisters’ help would be an understatement. The Italian-American community was in dire straits and Cabrini and her compatriots attempted to immediately assist them. However, they were met with issues both from within the community and from its religious leaders. Archbishop Corrigan, the head of the Church in New York City, initially sent the sisters away, offering them only food and shelter. However, Cabrini herself was able to convince him to allow her group to form the Sacred Heart Orphan Asylum in West Park. It became a beacon of hope for the many Italian-American children who had either lost their parents or arrived in the country without them. It was only the beginning.

Cabrini and her growing flock, known as the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, did not rely solely on their own good graces to care for children and immigrants. One of their lasting impacts has been outreach to individuals and organizations that are willing to donate their time, money, and political support to the cause. Not only were they able to reach out to people and organizations but they were able to establish community programs for the poor far earlier than any governmental organizations.



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In all, the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus under the tutelage of Mother Cabrini were able to establish sixty-seven different institutions meant to help all manner of people. These were also not limited to New York. Cabrini opened centers for the needy in Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Denver, New Orleans, Seattle, and many other cities in the United States. Her influence was even felt throughout the world as her organization established even further institutions for the needy in Europe, China, and South America.

Cabrini set out to accomplish as much as possible in her life and seems to have done even more as her name and the organization she founded have gone on to do so many different good works even after her death.

The Death and Legacy of a Saint

When Cabrini turned sixty-seven in 1917, she contracted malaria. This was often caused by being bitten by infected mosquitoes and was untreatable at the time. It would lead to further issues with dysentery. This disease was said to have killed her in December while she was making Christmas candy for orphans. This may, however, be a part of the stories that rose up upon her canonization and beatification.

Mother Cabrini’s Miracle

In order to be considered a true saint and someone who can be prayed to, a person must have performed miracles. These miracles must have been witnessed. Therefore, individuals will be interviewed and writings will be poured over to establish coherent proof of miracles. For Mother Cabrini, it was said that she performed four miracles.

The one that truly distinguished her was restoring sight to a child who was blinded by silver nitrate. When a child was born during the pre-antibiotic era, silver nitrate was put into a child’s eyes to prevent neonatal ocular infections. However, it was only ever put in at a 1% solution. In the case of this child, a 50% solution was used. When the beatification was concluded, the child, now nearly twenty, was invited to the ceremony and would later go on to become a priest.



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Strangely, thirteen years before her canonization, she was already being prepared for sainthood. Her body was exhumed from its interment at the Saint Cabrini Home orphanage and physically split apart. This meant that pieces of her body were sent to different places to be used in worship. It is thought that her body has been divided into at least five different pieces around the world.

Mother Cabrini lived a fascinating and purposeful life. Her work should be viewed not just as religious, but in the purest form of giving back. When being presented with a challenge, she not only rose to it but brought others with her. The work of a true saint and a woman of valor. For her works, Cabrini is recognized as the patron saint of immigrants.


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