By a happy coincidence, as we meet for this staff development initiative, this is also the day on which the Church in the United States honors the memory of the indomitable St. Frances Xavier Cabrini. Of course, I am then reminded one of the many insightful, wise sayings of Pope John Paul II: “A coincidence is what a believer calls Divine Providence.” I like to say that I grew up in Madre Cabrini’s shadow because, as a boy in grammar school, I played in a park in Newark, New Jersey, named for her and in which a statue of her still graces its entrance.
For those of you not too familiar with this saint, permit me to rehearse but a few of the more salient elements of her life story.
Francesca Cabrini was born in 1850 in a small village near Milan. As a young girl, she was very much taken by the stories of missionaries and wanted to join a missionary order. Plagued by poor health, she was denied admission to the Daughters of the Sacred Heart, who had taught her and through whom she had gained her teaching certificate.