I’VE talked about Frances Xavier Cabrini before, on the Boulevard that bears her name way uptown in Washington Heights. Well, if George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, as well as a plethora of other figures, can have more than one street named for them, why not Mother Cabrini…and that’s what happened in 2017, when the NE corner of 3rd Avenue and East 19th Street was named Mother Cabrini Way, on the centennial of her death.
The Catholic saint, born in Lodi on the Italian peninsula (then a part of the Austrian empire) became a nun at age 27 after the deaths of her parents. Born Francesca Saverio Cabrini, she added “Xavier” to her name to honor patron saint Francis Xavier. Interested in founding missionaries, she helped found the Institute of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in 1880, and she traveled to the USA in 1889 and organized catechism and schooling for Italian immigrants, using great powers of persuasion to accrue donations, eventually founding Italian Hospital, later the Cabrini Medical Center, which remained open until 2008.
The tireless Cabrini 1850-1917) founded over 60 schools and orphanages throughout the United States, South America and Europe. She became a United States citizen in 1909, eight years before her death. She was beatified in 1938 (the first step in becoming a saint) and finally canonized in 1946. She was the first naturalized US citizen to become a saint; Elizabeth Bayley Seton was the first native-born US citizen to do so. There are three shrines to her honor in the USA, in Chicago; Golden, Colorado; and Washington Heights, New York, several miles south of her original burial plot in West Park in Ulster County.
Why 3rd Avenue and East 19th? The co-naming also commemorates the Cabrini Medical Center, which was located at 227 East 19th Street from 1973 to 2008.
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