Chapel, Mother Cabrini bedroom, exhibit named local shrine

Archbishop Gregory Aymond has officially designated the Sacred Heart Chapel at Cabrini High School, its Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini bedroom and exhibit room as a local shrine.

“This is a place where a natural saint stayed, prayed and ministered on these grounds,” said Jack Truxillo, president of Cabrini High School, who initiated the designation from the archbishop. “We think that is very significant. We have so many artifacts, actually relics, from her that we wanted to share them.”

In his official letter responding to Truxillo’s request, Archbishop Aymond said he was pleased to bestow the status of a local shrine on the Mother Cabrini chapel, bedroom and exhibit room. He joined the Missionary Sisters of the  Sacred Heart of Jesus, which Mother Cabrini founded, and Cabrini High School in the “humble joy that the relics from (Mother Cabrini’s) time are preserved. We can indeed call this holy ground because it is here that Mother Cabrini lived, prayed and served God’s people.”

Cabrini already had been listed in a distributed brochure of local Catholic shrines, but Truxillo wanted to receive an official designation. Other local shrines include St. Jude, St. Ann Church and National Shrine, Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, Henriette Delille’s prayer room at St. Louis Cathedral, the Catholic Cultural Heritage Center in the Old Ursuline Convent and the National Shrine of Our Lady of Prompt Succor. Truxillo said there are other Cabrini shrines in Golden, Colorado; Chicago; and New York City.

Mother Cabrini in N.O.
At a time when New Orleans was filled with “great hatred and prejudice toward Italians,” it was Archbishop Francis Janssens who originally requested help from the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart in Italy. Mother  Cabrini arrived here in 1892.

She first rented the third floor of a tenement building at 817 St. Philip St. in an area of the French Quarter known as the Italian Quarter, Truxillo said. She purchased the building and established an orphanage with three other nuns.

Four more sisters joined them a month later, and they visited Italians at the docks, in prisons and in their farming communities, encouraging them to improve their lives through education, by learning English and acquiring citizenship. During the yellow fever epidemics of 1897 and 1905, the sisters cared for the sick and dying and ministered to orphans and families.

When Mother Cabrini returned to New Orleans in 1904 from Italy, she knew a larger orphanage was needed. In 1905, Captain Salvatore Pizzati donated $75,000 for her to purchase the land where the current Cabrini High School is located on Esplanade Avenue. A new, three-story orphanage and chapel were built on the site.

Mother Cabrini died in 1917 at the age of 67 after establishing 67 hospitals, orphanages and schools in nine countries on three continents. She was declared blessed by Pope Pius XI on Nov. 13, 1938, and was canonized by Pope Pius XII on July 7, 1946.

Truxillo said the designation evolved from the advice of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which is an international missionary congregation of religious women now on six continents and 15 countries.

Missionary Sister of the Sacred Heart Renee Kettelson, who is a historian, promotes the shrine as a docent and caretaker. She gives tours by appointment. Call 482-1193 for information.

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