November 11, 2022

Saint Cabrini On November 13, 2022, the Church celebrates the feast of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, patron saint of immigrants, and the end of her Jubilee year in honor of the 75th anniversary of her canonization.
Saint Francis Xavier Cabrini, patron saint of immigrants, and the end of her Jubilee year in honor of the 75th anniversary of her canonization.

Born in 1850, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini was an Italian missionary of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In 1880 she was sent by Pope Leo XIII to New York City to help minister to Italian immigrants in the United States. When she arrived in the city after a long journey, the archbishop told her that she was no longer needed and invited her to return to Italy. Determined to fulfill her mission, she is known to have said, in her broken English, “In America, I am staying.”
She was a very strong woman.

Mother Cabrini went on to found 67 charities in just 35 years, serving the Italian immigrant community as well as the sick, impoverished and uneducated of New York City. She became a U.S. citizen and died in Chicago in 1917. In 1946 she was canonized as the first U.S. citizen saint.

She was canonized in 1946 as the first U.S. citizen saint.

Two of CLINIC’s affiliate organizations are named after Mother Cabrini: the St. Frances Cabrini Center for Immigrant Legal Assistance, part of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston (Texas), and Cabrini Immigrant Services of New York City.

Both organizations are considered continuations of the work that Mother Cabrini began.

“It’s exactly the same mission, just serving different populations,” said Maria Mitchell, managing attorney for the St. Frances Cabrini Center of Houston. “Mother Cabrini had a specific group she wanted to help – Italian immigrants – but she always adapted to the needs in front of her. We do that, too; we are always responding to the latest needs of our immigrant clients.”

The St. Frances Cabrini Center has a staff of nearly 100 and serves thousands of immigrant clients a year. Its services are wide-ranging, from assisting newly arrived Afghan refugees to representing unaccompanied minors and their families.

“For us, [carrying out Mother Cabrini’s mission] is not just about the work we do, but who our staff is,” said Terry Cody, Chief Legal Officer. “Everyone is here for the mission. Many of our staff are immigrants. Like Mother Cabrini, some of us are immigrants in the service of immigrants.”

Mother Cabrini.

“One attorney in our office is the son of another employee here who came to this country as a refugee,” Mitchell continued. “He is now an attorney who works with unaccompanied children. I think that’s a beautiful testament to the work we do and to the spirit of Mother Cabrini.”

“I love reflecting on Mother Cabrini’s words, ‘In America, I stay,'” Mitchell said. “It reminds me of the determination of our clients to make a life here in this country.”

Cabrini Immigrant Services of New York City, or CIS-NYC, stays close to Mother Cabrini’s mission even in its location: after a recent office move, it is now located right in Mother Cabrini’s sanctuary building in the Washington Heights neighborhood.
Cabrini Immigrant Services of New York City, or CIS-NYC, has a new location in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City.

Ella Nimmo, Director of Community Programs and Development, said this location has allowed them an even closer relationship with the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart, who founded CIS and several of whom still work at Cabrini Immigrant Services. Donations from pilgrims visiting the shrine sometimes go to support CIS-NYC, and sometimes immigrants visiting the shrine stop by their office and ask for help. Sanctuary staff often refer immigrants in need to visit CIS. The CIS offers a wide variety of services for the immigrant community, from legal services to social support programs.

Beyond the external connections to Mother Cabrini – its name, its founding by the Sisters, its location – Nimmo says CIS-NYC maintains the spirit of Mother Cabrini’s approach. “The Sisters often talk about how Mother Cabrini had a sense of urgency, an ‘improvisational’ way of being,” Nimmo said. “If there was a need, Mother Cabrini was going to find a way to meet it. She would get things done. We try to take that approach, too.” Nimmo said CIS-NYC is always on top of new developments facing immigrant communities in New York City. The biggest new challenge for them lately has been finding a way to meet the needs of the thousands of immigrants who have been bused into the city from Texas.”
They’ve been able to meet the needs of the thousands of immigrants who have been bused into the city from Texas.

“So far we’ve helped at least 120 families from the buses,” Nimmo said. “It’s difficult because they arrive with nothing: no contacts, not even cell phones, few job prospects and often no avenue for legal residency. We are having to be creative in how we help them and show them support and solidarity.”

“The last few years have been really difficult, with the pandemic and the political changes,” Nimmo continued. “Now we have these migrant families coming in on buses from the border. Creating a supportive space for them in the midst of these challenges is sometimes the most we can do. But we do whatever we can; we look for any source of support we can offer, just as we imagine Mother Cabrini would have done.”
We’re doing our best.

We invite you to explore the work of Cabrini Immigrant Services of NYC and the St. Frances Cabrini Center.

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