National shrine to Mother Cabrini reopens after 10 years

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Sunday, October 7, 2012

National shrine to Mother Cabrini reopens after 10 years

The National Shrine of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini is open for business once again. On Sept. 30, Cardinal George celebrated a Mass at the chapel at 2520 N. Lakeview Ave. to bless the renovated shrine and addition.
A visitor prays before a reconstructed room where Mother Cabrini died. The original room was in Columbus Hospital, which closed in 2002. This new room is in the museum at the shrine and includes the wicker chair where the saint died. (Karen Callaway / Catholic New World)
The outside of the shrine and its garden seen from its northwest side. Protective scaffolding covered the shrine building during construction of the high-rise condominiums next to it. (Karen Callaway / Catholic New World)
Aux. Bishop Francis Kane and Deacon Paul Spalla gather the Eucharist, which was then reserved in the shrine's tabernacle. (Karen Callaway / Catholic New World)
Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Joan McGlinchey (left), general councillor, and Patricia Spillane, superior general, sing during Mass. (Karen Callaway / Catholic New World)
Mother Cabrini's address book is on display at the shrine's museum. Many of the country's movers and shakers were in her address book. (Karen Callaway / Catholic New World)
The upper arm bone of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini is displayed in a gold case before the altar at the shrine. (Karen Callaway / Catholic New World)
Workers apply gold leaf to the entrance of the National Shrine of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini at 2520 N. Lakeview Ave. on Sept. 27. The shrine officially opened on Oct. 1. (Karen Callaway / Catholic New World)
Flanked by Knights of Columbus, Cardinal George blesses the congregation as he processes out of the chapel following the Sept. 30 Mass. (Karen Callaway / Catholic New World)
A fresco of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini as seen on the ceiling inside the chapel. (Karen Callaway / Catholic New World)

The National Shrine of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini is open for business once again. On Sept. 30, Cardinal George celebrated a Mass at the chapel at 2520 N. Lakeview Ave. to bless the renovated shrine and addition.

The shrine building, which was constructed as an addition to Columbus Hospital in 1955, closed in 2002 after the hospital closed and was sold to developers. It reopened Oct. 1 with a new museum, entranceway and lobby — built as part of the ground floor of the neighboring condo building — and a new mission.

Located across from the Lincoln Park Zoo, the shrine is tucked beside a high-end condominium development that was built around it. Shrine staff said that a few people they talked to said they moved into the condo building because of the shrine.

A small outdoor garden space has been added just west of the shrine.

Mother Cabrini died in 1917 and was canonized in 1946. She had such a wide following that Cardinal Samuel Stritch helped build the shrine at Columbus Hospital nine years after her death to serve the thousands of pilgrims who flocked to the hospital to see the room where the saint died.

During his homily Cardinal George told the congregation that he questioned whether the shrine should be moved to another location instead of reopening on its current site. The Cabrini Sisters were insistent though — especially Sister Patricia Spillane, the superior general.

“It wasn’t the first time a superior general of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart Jesus seconded guessed a bishop and proved to be correct,” the cardinal joked.

The cardinal recalled visiting the shrine with his mother when he was around 10 years old to pray for a cousin who was next door in Columbus Hospital with a respiratory ailment. He also recalled for the congregation his being one of the 120,000 people who filled Soldier Field on Sept. 22, 1946 to celebrate Mother Cabrini’s canonization with Cardinal Samuel Stritch.

Pope Benedict XVI also offered his thoughts on the shrine’s reopening, which Cardinal George shared during his homily. He read a letter from Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Holy See’s secretary of state, that said “Inspired by the streams of divine love flowing from the wounded heart of the Redeemer, St. Frances bore eloquent witness to the Gospel by her care of the poor and the immigrant, her commitment to the Christian education of the young and her selfless devotion to the disadvantaged and those in need.

“It is the Holy Father’s hope that the reopened shrine will be an island of faith, prayer and peace in the center of the city, awakening in all who enter its doors a deeper sense of God’s loving presence and a renewed commitment to the church’s mission,” Cardinal Bertone wrote.

The Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, founded by Mother Cabrini, labored for 10 years to reopen the shrine. At the beginning of the Sept. 30 Mass, Cabrini Sister Joan McGlinchey, general councillor for the community’s Stella Maris Province, said that the time “has been for us a journey of faith.” She spoke about the shrine being a new ministry of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus who serve in 16 countries around the world and thanked God who gave us Mother Cabrini “as a model of missionary discipleship.”

Sent to the United States by Pope Leo XIII to minister to immigrants, Mother Cabrini traveled for nearly 30 years throughout the country and the world, founding orphanages, schools and hospitals. She was well known to politicians and civic leaders in Chicago, one of her main bases of operation.

Visitors can get a glimpse into the life of the saint at the shrine’s small museum, which includes items belonging to Mother Cabrini and her reconstructed bedroom, including the wicker chair in which she died.

Mother Cabrini’s life and legacy is also honored in four frescos that adorn the shrine’s ceiling. A relic of Mother Cabrini — her right upper arm bone — was housed in the base of the shrine’s altar until 2002 when it was moved to Our Lady of Pompei Shrine in Chicago for veneration. The relic was returned to the shrine and will be installed within the base of the altar once again. Mass will be held in the chapel every weekend, and the shrine primarily will be a place of prayer and pilgrimage. Adoration is available Fridays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Since the shrine is located within the boundaries of St. Clement Parish, priests from there will help staff the weekend Masses.

Who was St. Frances Xavier Cabrini?

Feast: Nov. 13 Patron of immigrants Died: Dec. 22, 1917

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini was born in Lombardi, Italy, in 1850. She was one of 13 children in her family. At 18, she said she wanted to become a nun, but was refused because of her frail health.

She helped her parents until their deaths, and then worked on a farm with her brothers and sisters.

One day a priest asked her to teach in a girls’ school. She stayed there for six years and then, at the request of her bishop, founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart to care for poor children in schools and hospitals. She came to the United States with six nuns in 1889 to work among the Italian immigrants at the urging of Pope Leo XIII. She became a U.S. citizen in 1909.

Filled with a deep trust in God and endowed with a wonderful administrative ability, she founded schools, hospitals and orphanages in the aid of Italian immigrants and children. At the time of her death in Chicago, her congregation had houses in England, France, Spain, the United States and South America. In 1946, she became the first American citizen to be canonized when she was elevated to sainthood by Pope Pius XII.