First on First: Saint Frances Cabrini

506px-Francesca_CabriniSaint Frances Cabrini was the first U.S. citizen and Italian American to be canonized.

She was born on July 15, 1850, in Sant’Angelo Lodigiano – a small village near Milan, Italy. She was the youngest of 13 children, and her parents were wealthy cherry tree farmers. Frances worked alongside her parents and siblings while also attending school. She obtained her teaching certificate while studying under the Daughters of the Sacred Heart. Upon her graduation she attempted to join the religious order but was turned away due to her poor health. Instead, she began to teach children at an orphanage in Cadogno, Italy. In 1877, she finally took her vows and joined the religious order. Three years later, Frances, along with seven other women, founded the Institute of the Missionary of Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

21674-004-E9AE92F1In 1889, Pope Leo XIII instructed Frances and her sisters to help Italian immigrants in New York City. Frances began to teach catechism and various educational classes. Nearly 20 years after her arrival, she became a citizen of the United States. She also established over 65 schools, orphanages and institutions that offered classes and assistance to the poor and uneducated. Frances was tasked with opening more schools and traveled to Europe, Central America and South America to complete her mission. She passed away on December 22, 1917.

On November 13, 1938, Frances was beatified by Pope Pius XI, and on July 7, 1946, she was canonized by Pope Pius XII. Shortly thereafter, in 1950, Saint Frances Cabrini was named the Patroness of Immigrants.

Sources: Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Cabrini College, American

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