Educated by the Daughters of the Sacred Heart in Arluno, Lombardy in the middle of the 19th Century, Frances Cabrini longed to live as a religious -- particularly in order to work in the missions. She would be told by the Daughters that her destiny lay elsewhere: the founding of her own congregation, so as to "bring new glory to the Heart of Jesus." In the interim, she was educated as a teacher and dedicated herself to works of charity wherever she was. Finally, in 1874 she was asked by her diocese to move to another town in order to take over a school, and she was to organize it as a religious institute. Taking this as her vocational cue, she and five other young women banded together as consecrated religious to pursue this new mission. It was then that Frances took "Xavier" as her religious name. This was intended as a tribute to Francis Xavier, the famous Jesuit who evangelized in East Asia. Her new religious institute was finally established in 1881, originally with a purely diocesan mission. Yet Mother Cabrini had her eyes set on transforming the religious institute into a missionary institute for evangelizing in East Asia like her namesake. Meeting with Pope Leo XIII, however, she was convinced to look "not to the East, but to the West": to the United States, which was receiving great numbers of Catholic immigrants who were meeting with economic and political marginalization. Thus were the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart established as an institute of religious sisters.
Mother Cabrini and her sisters worked to establish and maintain orphanages, schools, and hospitals in the US, often supporting their work through begging for alms due to lack of resources for their missions from wealthy donors or from other religious congregations. Eventually, the Missionaries would spread all across the US, from New York to California, and even down into Central and South America. Mother Cabrini was finally granted US citizenship in 1909, which would later make her the first naturalized US citizen to be canonized as a saint. Her work would continue at a constant pace until, while aiding the Missionaries in Chicago, she died in 1917. She was 67 at the time, and by then she had founded 67 missions of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, one for every year! Today, the Missionaries continue their works of healing, teaching, charity, and outreach to the communities in which they reside. Consistent with the original purposes of the institute, the sisters continue to focus attention on immigrants in particular.
In today's Gospel, our Lord tells us not to try to observe the coming of the Kingdom of God. Rather, "the Kingdom of God is among you" (Lk 17:21). It is thanks to great saints like Mother Cabrini, and to the many sisters who have served her institute, that we can be assured of the presence of the Kingdom of God among us. Through such women, the Lord has secured justice for the oppressed, given food to the hungry, set captives free, given sight to the blind, raised up those who were bowed down (cf. Ps 146). Let us give particular thanks to God this day for the example He has given us in the life of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini and her sisters. Amen.