Women’s Month Spotlight on Mother Cabrini & The Foundation Bearing Her Name
By Silvia Davi, February 2024

Growing up I was always intrigued by Mother Cabrini, whom I first learned about as a kid while attending Italian Saturday school in Astoria, Queens. In fact, Mother Cabrini was known to many in the US as the Saint of Immigrants and moved to NYC from Italy and was a woman ahead of her time. I even had the pleasure of visiting her shrine in New York as a kid on an Italian school trip.  During international women’s month and with the release of the movie this month on the iconic titled, Cabrini, I wanted to shed light on this extraordinary Renaissance woman and the Mother Cabrini Foundation that keeps her legacy alive. It was a pleasure to hear Monsignor Greg Mustaciuolo, from the Foundation, share his perspective on Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini while paying forward this trailblazer’s vision through incredible works of charity.

Tell us about Mother Cabrini, who she was and her legacy?

Mother Frances Cabrini was an Italian immigrant who in 1889 moved to New York City without a place to call home. As soon as she arrived, she got to work serving fellow immigrants by organizing schools, catechisms and caring for and housing orphans. Mother Cabrini dedicated her life to serving the poor and helping those in need. In fewer than 30 years, she helped open 67 schools, hospitals and orphanages across the world. As a result of her impact, Pope Pius XII canonized Mother Cabrini in 1946, making her the first U.S. citizen to be recognized as a saint.

Why has she been the focus of so much attention in recent years?

For many of us, her legacy and values drive how we approach our work and our lives every day. From a young age, I even grew up going to the Mother Cabrini Shrine in New York with my mother. Particularly in recent years, as New York and the country have welcomed hundreds of thousands of new immigrants in need of support to have healthy, stable lives, her legacy rings even louder. Mother Cabrini dedicated herself to serving fellow immigrants and underserved New Yorkers, and her example shines a light on how we must support the migrants and immigrants arriving in our country and our state today.

Describe the work of your organization and how it is tied to Mother Cabrini’s mission?

The Mother Cabrini Health Foundation is one of the largest foundations in the United States and the largest foundation focused exclusively on healthcare across New York State. Our foundation is guided by Catholic principles and the life and work of Mother Frances Cabrini. Our mission is to improve the health and wellbeing of New Yorkers, bolster the health outcomes of underserved communities, eliminate barriers to care and bridge gaps in health services. The Foundation funds programs and initiatives across New York State that provide either direct healthcare services or address the social determinants of health.

In the five years since our inception, the Foundation has now awarded approximately 2,700 grants totaling more than $800 million. We work every day to build on Mother Cabrini’s legacy of service. 

What would you like the NIAF community and Italian Americans and particularly women to learn about Mother Cabrini’s legacy?

As an Italian immigrant and a woman leader in Catholicism at her time, Mother Cabrini undeniably had to break barriers. She was ahead of her time, guided by an unwaveringly strong desire to do good and serve the underserved. Her story shows the amazing impact we can have on our communities and the world when we think not just about ourselves, but about how we can help others. I hope more people hear her story and follow in her footsteps.