Even as a child, Frances knew she was made to be a missionary; she loved crafting little paper boats and sending them off to sail with “missionary” flowers aboard.
The flame continued to grow during a childhood full of illnesses, and a young adulthood full of challenges. More than one community of women religious turned her down; the orphanage where her pastor had urged her to work closed six years after she started. So, with five others, she formed the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. At last, Frances knew she would answer that call through this community. She was quite sure it would be lived in China. But her local bishop and then Pope Leo XIII advised her that she was instead needed in the United States to help Italian immigrants. And so, the sisters agreed, arriving in New York in March 1889.
Missionary work in the United States did not prove to be easy. The women had no place to stay, and were advised by the New York archbishop to return to Italy until things (including their living stipend) were ready for them. Instead, they stayed, finding support from the Sisters of Charity and then from the immigrant community to whom they were planning to minister. From that inauspicious beginning, the sisters during Frances’ lifetime would found more than five dozen schools, orphanages, hospitals, and more on three continents. Frances never did get to China. But she found souls to save and a home in the United States, where she became a naturalized citizen in 1909.
Have you ever been rock-solid, 100-percent certain of God’s plan for you—only to find out you were wrong? God does seem to have a gentle sense of humor sometimes. Mother Cabrini’s willingness to listen to her bishop and pope instead of insisting on doing things her way reminds us that God can speak to us through the advice of others.
“I have started houses with no more than the price of a loaf of bread and prayers, for with him who comforts me, I can do anything.” —St. Frances Xavier Cabrini
Spend some time reflecting on where God wants you to use the gifts he has given you.