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The National Shrine of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini was built in 1955 to celebrate the life and accomplishments of Mother Cabrini, a missionary woman religious who helped shape America's social and health care system in the early twentieth century. In 1946, Mother Cabrini was 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.
In 1905, Mother Cabrini founded Columbus Hospital in Chicago. It was the place where she lived, worked, and later died. The Shrine dedicated to her 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. The room where Mother Cabrini died has been preserved and is currently on exhibit inside the National Shrine of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini.
The Shrine Re-Establishes
In 2002, Columbus Hospital and the Shrine closed. Over the next ten years, the Shrine underwent restoration and renovation. During the Fall of 2012, the Shrine began a new establishment along with a new ministry sponsored by the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Today, the Shrine serves as a dynamic spiritual center in the heart of Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood and is a symbol of the great work and mission of a remarkable woman.
A Welcoming Place
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. Inside, the faithful are greeted by a worship space that is open, respectful and contemplative.
The Shrine features a main altar and four side altars. The main altar is a papal altar – meaning Mass can be celebrated on both sides. It is made of black onyx and marble and features a glass pentagon framed in bronze which contains St. Cabrini’s humerus. The other altars are dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, St. Joseph, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Holy Spirit.
Stunning frescos reflecting different stages of Mother Cabrini's life are seen directly over the main altar.
Florentine stained glass windows depict the Joyful, Glorious, and Sorrowful Mysteries, the four evangelists, the Baptism, First Communion, and Confirmation of Francesca Cabrini as well as the miracles for her Beatification and Canonization. Popes involved in St. Cabrini’s life and other Saints important to her are also illustrated through the windows.
The Shrine’s Tamburini Pipe Organ dates back to 1955. It was imported from Italy and is a rare find in North America. It still contains many of its original pipes and is played each week at Mass as well as on special occasions.
The room of Mother Cabrini at Columbus Hospital has been preserved as it was when she died there in 1917. It is on display inside the National Shrine. The exhibit has become a magnet for pilgrims and those seeking her intercession and inspiration.
A lovely extension that stretches beyond the interiors of the Shrine lies a beautiful meditation garden. It is a welcome and tranquil retreat space nestled amongst Chicago’s Lincoln Park. In addition to the glorious vines and flowers of the garden, there is a bronze statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus that once adorned the entry to Columbus Hospital.
Tours of the Shrine and the exhibit are now available for visitors. To arrange a tour, please call us at 773.360.5115.