Today, after 134 years, we recall Mother Cabrini’s departure for her first mission to the United States.
Pope Leo XIII pointed Mother to the West instead of the East, and she promptly obeyed, and only a month after this decision, that is, on March 19, 1889 in the convent of Codogno, Mother Frances Xavier, almost forty years old, and six other religious received from Msgr. Scalabrini the Cross of Missionaries. Four days later, on March 23, they sailed from the French port of Le Havre on the steamship ‘Bourgogne’ to New York, where they disembarked on the 31st amid rain and mud. Thus began her missionary life spent in the relief of emigrants who were defeated, mistreated, lynched, maligned by the working classes for their cheap activities and overwhelmed by misery and illiteracy.
Page 7 “To the Ends of the Earth“
Of the first trip to the United States and back we are left with no written report from the Saint. Mother Cabrini had left for the apostolate assigned to her by the Vicar of Christ on March 23, 1889. She had embarked at Le Havre on the Bourgogne; her destination was New York, where she disembarked on March 31 around 7 p.m.
Bishop Scalabrini, Bishop of Piacenza, had invited her to collaborate with his priests in favor of Italian emigrants.
It was to open, at the behest of the Archbishop of New York, a kindergarten for the children of our countrymen, and to direct a school already opened by the Scalabrini Fathers.
Innumerable difficulties met the Saint on her first setting foot in this metropolis of the United States, such that a soul less hardened than she, and less ardent in zeal, would have been discouraged.
Nothing of what had been promised her existed-not the kindergarten, not the school, not even the house for the Sisters, and, moreover, the invitation of Archbishop Corrigan, Archbishop of New York, was to return to Italy because of the difficulties that had arisen.
But Mother was not a woman to back down after putting her hand to the plough. A single glance was enough for her to realize the material, moral and religious conditions in which the poor emigrants found themselves and what field of work opened to her zeal.
It took no more than that for her to give herself immediately to provide for the most urgent needs of so many unfortunate people.
In spite of innumerable contrarieties and difficulties, she managed to open, with the Archbishop’s approval, an orphanage at 59th Street and a school, albeit with temporary premises. She departed for Italy again, four months after his arrival.