I had planned on going to the Cathedral for Mass, but when my morning commitments resolved themselves sooner than I expected, I headed to Assumption Church for its 7:30 Mass. What an inspired decision! Today was the feast of a former parishioner, St. Frances Cabrini. And Fr. Joe had a few interesting anecdotes from the parish annals to share in his homily (fittingly, the Gospel was the parable of the persistent widow). For instance, it was Mother Cabrini who started the parish school (no longer in existence in this neighborhood that for decades was largely industrial/commercial and is only now becoming residential). When she died, Mother Cabrini was making Christmas packages for Assumption's students. At her canonization, the parish ordered one of the first statues of the first American citizen saint. The pastor even went to Italy to pick it up. And there was a solemn blessing for its installation in the Church.
But the people in the parish who actually remembered Mother Cabrini objected strongly to the depiction. The sweet, youthful features didn't resemble the strong, stern Northern Italian woman they had known in her old age. The statue had to be packed up and a new, more lifelike one installed. That's the statue you'll find in the church today.
Since I have a family connection to Mother Cabrini (my great-grandfather sold his French Quarter house to her), I was delighted to learn more about this saint who lived and served Chicago 100 years ago. And I pray to her for the people who follow in her steps today: her own Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart, of course, but in a special way those who, like her, put themselves on the line for the sake of people that society shoves aside or forgets. (Mother Cabrini can probably teach them a thing or two about working the system, too!)