An Inspiration for Addressing Challenges in Education Today

Mother Cabrini contributed a progressive lived tradition to Catholic educational practice.  This emerged from the relationship of Mother Cabrini and the seven MSC co-founders with the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In 1881 she explained that:

‘the most loving Heart of Jesus inflamed the souls of these virgins with the fire of his most ardent charity’ (Regola dell’Istituto, p.1).

Below are two ways in which Mother Cabrini and the early Sisters, embracing an Education of the Heart approach, influenced Catholic and other Educational practices of their day.

Openness to New Educational Opportunities
Mother Cabrini wrote of an openness to new approaches:

‘The Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus consecrate themselves with truly open minds to the religious culture of the future’ (Regola dell’Istituto, p.28).

The Sisters went on to embrace new educational opportunities in Europe and the Americas, arising from government requirements for elementary education. This was a modern way to bring the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to the world, particularly to migrants in expanding urban centres.

Creating Communities of Professional Loving Educators
Mother Cabrini wanted MSC convents to be communities of professional, loving educators. Many Sisters were qualified teachers, like Mother Cabrini and two other co-founders. Mother Cabrini sent some to train in new scientific techniques, such as the Froebel and Montessori Methods, which were useful in adjusting their teaching to the needs of learners. They shared them with other Sisters. In Rome in 1900, the school inspectors observed:

‘the modern advances of pedagogy’ (Relazione Roma, p.92.).

The Sisters integrated the scientific and the spiritual in a pedagogy of love, to educate the heart of the pupil, whilst developing their cognitive and creative abilities. This contrasted with the pedagogies of fear, with harsh punishments, common in Catholic and other schools at the time. Their community and devotional life supported the Sisters’ development in virtues, including strength and gentleness, for authentic Catholic educational practice.

Mother Cabrini’s contribution to Catholic educational practice was, therefore, both progressive and authentically Catholic, a new application of ancient principles and an inspiration for addressing the challenges in education today.

For more details see: Maria Patricia Williams, The Contribution of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini (1850-1917) to Catholic Educational Practice in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries, PhD Thesis University College London, free download at:

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