Mother Cabrini remembered Friday on day set aside by Gov. John Hickenlooper

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Photo: Mother Cabrini (Courtesy of the Denver Catholic)

Colorado Politics - Author: Joey Bunch - December 22, 2017

Friday is officially St. Frances Cabrini Day in Colorado, marking the 100th anniversary of the death of the saint better known as Mother Cabrini. In her civic work in the poor Italian quarters in north Denver and for the city’s orphaned children, Mother Cabrini herself seemed a miracle.

Gov. John Hickenlooper, Golden Mayor Marjorie Sloan, U.S. Rep Ed Perlmutter of Arvada and the Jefferson County Commission provided proclamations memorializing the day.

Born in Italy, she became a naturalized as U.S. citizen in Denver in 1909. She would become the first naturalized American to be canonized for her life’s work for the sick and poor, which extended much farther than the foothills of the Rockies.

Mother Cabrini came to the U.S. from Italy as a missionary, bound for the squalid living conditions of Italian laborers in the West. In all she founded 67 institutions to serve the poor across the country, and Mother Cabrini is the namesake of churches and parishes across the country.

The Denver Catholic website reported Thursday on how she played a critical role in establishing the city’s first permanent church for Italian immigrants.

The Mother Cabrini Shrine overlooking Golden reminds Coloradans of her legacy.

“Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Denver is also a historical jewel of her work,” Denver Catholic columnist Vladimir Mauricio-Perez writes in an excellent piece.

“It was in Denver that she became a close companion of Father Mariano Felice Lepore, a young priest determined to build a church for the Italian immigrants. Mother Cabrini considered that in building Denver and the West, ‘the hardest work [was] reserved for the Italian worker,’ so she had come to Colorado to bring ‘the holy joys’ to the poor immigrants.'”

Read the full column here.

Mother Cabrini came to Denver in 1902 as the founder and leader of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart, first to serve the mining districts in Clear Creek, Argentine and South Park.

But she was foremost an educator of unyielding resource and compassion to serve the children from Denver’s poor neighborhoods. The Lady of Mount Carmel Church history notes:

Mother Cabrini, who had set up a grade school in the fall of 1902 in the home of Michael Notary, moved her flock of children and four nuns to the new school with relief. In the Notary house at 3357 Navajo Street, the first Mt. Carmel School had overflowed with students. For lack of tablets and blackboards, Mother Cabrini’s teaching nuns had students blow on chilled window panes and use their fingers in the condensation to do their lessons.

Besides using the Milnew arithmetic, Lawlor history, Atwood geography, Benziger Brothers Bible history, and the Baltimore Catechism, Mother Cabrini and her sisters used Columbus readers and Mother Tongue English textbooks to teach first and second-generation immigrant children how to use English properly. Although the grateful parish could not afford to pay the nuns regular salaries, they held monthly food showers to assure that the teachers at least ate well.

The Mother Cabini Shrine is another amazing Colorado story of faith and civic good.

Mother Cabrini founded the Queen of Heaven Orphanage in Denver in 1905. Soon after she learned of 900 acres on the east slope of Lookout Mountain owned but unused by the town of Golden. She obtained it in 1910 as a summer camp for the orphans and set up a farming and livestock operation there.

Other than a small pond for the livestock, there was no reliable water source on the property. Water for drinking, cooking and bathing had to hauled up from a stream at the bottom of Mt. Vernon Canyon.

“In September 1912, the sisters complained to Mother Cabrini that they were dying of thirst and there was no water to be had,” the shrine’s website explains. “She answered, ‘Lift that rock over there and start to dig. You will find water fresh enough to drink and clean enough to wash.’ The spring, which is housed in an 8,000 gallon tank, has never stopped running. Many pilgrims, through their faith, believe the water has brought healing and peace to their lives.”

Mother Cabrini was declared “Blessed” in 1938 and canonized in 1946 in Rome by Pope Pius XII.

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