Expanding Horizons

“Why do you need to add to this building?” Monsignor Serrati asked, “You have enough room for what you have!”

In the scant six years since Mother Cabrini founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the order had grown from seven Sisters to well over a hundred.  In addition to the house at Codogno they now ran schools in Grumello, Milan, Casalpusterlengo, and Borghetto Lodigiano.

The influx of postulants meant that the old Franciscan monastery in Codogno, with its wide porches, long corridors, and small cells had to be enlarged. Again. Monsignor Serrati, concerned about the rapid expansion of Mother Cabrini’s, advised her to stop accepting applicants. He was worried about the scope of her work.

Mother Cabrini replied­–firmly, quietly, and respectfully­–that to limit the number of applicants would be harmful to the work of God. Msgr. Serrati yielded.

Mother Cabrini Finds a Way

The building contractor demanded an exorbitant sum of money. Mother Cabrini, ever resourceful, came up with another plan. She believed a missionary had to be capable of doing whatever was asked of her, and decided that the Sisters would assist with the bricklaying. When the workmen left for the day, the Sisters continued the task.

The inexperienced Sisters took on the work with love and enthusiasm. All proceeded well until the day the local authorities issued a stop-work order: the wall was in danger of collapsing!  The Sisters, momentarily sheepish but not discouraged, took the wall apart and began to rebuild it. Eventually it was ready, sturdy and well-made.

Mother Cabrini Wields a Pickaxe

Over time the Missionary Sisters got better at figuring out how to get things done. This was because Mother Cabrini led the way. Years later, in Seattle, when the mission there was in need of expansion, Mother Cabrini found a suitable house on Beacon Street that could be used as an orphanage, school, convent and temporary church.

Immediate construction was needed to expand the building. Mother Cabrini personally supervised the work. One evening after the stonemason left she wanted the ground prepared for the next day’s work. Realizing that the Sisters did not know what to do, Mother Cabrini, who stood barely five feet tall, took up a pickaxe and began to loosen the soil. 

Mother Cabrini Accepts No Excuses

When the work of God was a stake, there was no such thing as not getting it done. Mother Cabrini’s view was if you didn’t know how to proceed, you prayed and you learned and you figured it out. In response to a Sister who professed ignorance of how to run a hospital, Mother Cabrini responded firmly, “You say that you don’t know anything about hospitals; as a matter of fact, none of knew anything about hospitals until obedience [to God’s will] asked us to  open hospitals, and then we did all we had to do to the best of our ability.”

If it’s God’s work, God will show us the way.

St. Frances Cabrini, pray that we may learn to be resourceful and resilient in doing all that the Lord asks of us.

Thanks to St. Frances Cabrini Shrine for this article

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