The National Shrine of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini was built in 1955 to celebrate the life and accomplishments of Mother Cabrini, who 10 years earlier had been canonized as America’s first citizen-saint. In the 67 years she lived, Mother Cabrini founded 67 different institutions of care worldwide, several here in Chicago. Known as the Universal Patron Saint of Immigrants for her tireless work helping Italian immigrants everywhere, she is also considered one of the most influential women in Chicago history.
Mother Cabrini founded Columbus Hospital in Chicago in 1905. It was the place where she lived, worked, and later died. The Shrine dedicated to her honor honor was originally built as a chapel inside the hospital. The chapel became its center of worship and prayer for patients and staff. It was looked after by the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the religious order founded by Mother Cabrini. They also worked at the hospital as nurses and caregivers. The room where Mother Cabrini died was also preserved near the chapel as a gathering place for the faithful.
In 1998, Columbus Hospital was sold, and the staff relocated, mostly to nearby St Anthony’s Hospital. There was a long time when many thought the Shrine inside might be lost. It remained closed for a decade while the developer who bought the property and the Missionary Sisters negotiated for the Shrine’s future. Happily, they reached an agreement and a highrise development was built and the Shrine was preserved. It reopened in the Fall of 2012 as a free standing entity, a symbol of the great work and mission of a remarkable woman.
The National Shrine of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini is dedicated to the mission and memory of Mother Cabrini. It is a unique celebration of architecture and art. A major renovation has helped ensure that inside, the faithful will be greeted by a worship space that is open, comfortable, respectful and contemplative.
A new Narthex area greets visitors with an airy, open space and invites then into the chapel. The magnificent frescoes and statuary that adorn the interior have of the chapel been preserved and enhanced. There are new and better acoustics and lighting. The 4 alcoves remain, and create quiet spaces for individual prayer. Outside the Shrine a new gated garden area has been added that represents a haven of peace and tranquility from the bustling city that surrounds it.
The room of Mother Cabrini has been preserved as it was when she died there in 1917. A new historical exhibit surrounds her room. The exhibit has become a magnet for pilgrims and those seeking her intercession and inspiration.
Tours of her room and the other key points of interest of the Shrine are now avialable for visitors.
Before the Shrine reopened in 2012, many of those who were closest to it shared their memories.
Hear Sister Joan McGlinchey talk about starting the work on the Shrine’s new surroundings.
Father Ted Ploplis, Rector of the National Shrine of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, points out the stunning visual highlights of the Chapel.
Father Joseph Chamblin, pastor of Assumption Church in Chicago, talks about its long historical connection with Mother Cabrini, and how the first statue of the Saint drew criticism from parishioners when it first arrived at the church.
Chicago Historian Tim Samuelson talks about the controversial low-income housing project that became known as Cabrini Green.
Learn about the amazing work being done by the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Swaziland, home to the worst AIDS epidemic on the planet.