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Cabrini Day to Replace Columbus Day and Become First Paid Holiday in Honor of a Woman

On Tuesday Colorado passed legislation to replace Columbus Day with Cabrini Day because, according to the bill sponsors, it doesn’t represent the community, CNN reports. St. Frances Xavier Cabrini established 67 schools, hospitals, and orphanages in the U.S.and South and Central America throughout her lifetime and is the patron saint of immigrants. Cabrini – who died in 1917 – was canonized by the Roman Catholic Church on July 7, 1946, becoming the first U.S. citizen to be canonized as a saint. Cabrini’s accomplishments aiding humanity stand in stark contrast to the genocide of indigenous people Christopher Columbus is known for.

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#TagTuesdays Frances Xavier Cabrini (July 15, 1850 – December 22, 1917) also called Mother Cabrini, was an Italian-American Roman Catholic nun, who founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a Catholic religious institute that was a major support to the Italian immigrants to the United States. She was the first naturalized citizen of the United States to be canonized by the Roman Catholic Church, on July 7, 1946. In November 1880, she and six other women who had taken religious vows with her founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Cabrini composed the Rule and Constitutions of the religious institute, and she continued as its superior general until her death. The sisters took in orphans and foundlings, opened a day school to help pay expenses, started classes in needlework and sold their fine embroidery to earn a little more money. The institute established seven homes and a free school and nursery in its first five years. Its good works brought Cabrini to the attention of (the now Blessed) Giovanni Scalabrini, Bishop of Piacenza, and of Pope Leo XIII. In September 1877, Cabrini went to seek approval of the pope to establish missions in China. Instead, he suggested to her that she go to the United States to help the Italian immigrants who were flooding to that nation in that era, mostly in great poverty. "Not to the East, but to the West" was his advice. Cabrini left for the United States, arriving in New York City on March 31, 1889, along with six other sisters. In New York she encountered disappointment and difficulties. Archbishop Michael Corrigan, who was not immediately supportive, found them housing at the convent of the Sisters of Charity, where they were allowed to stay as long as necessary. She obtained the permission of the archbishop to found an orphanage, which is located in West Park, New York today and is known as Saint Cabrini Home. Cabrini organized catechism and education classes for the Italian immigrants and provided for the needs of the many orphans. She established schools and orphanages despite tremendous odds. She was as resourceful as she was prayerful.

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“The pain that they (indigenous people) endure and the historical trauma endured by indigenous people in this country as a result of what Columbus has put in place is real,” Rep. Adrienne Benavidez, one of the bill’s sponsors, told CNN. “And this is a step forward in erasing that pain.”

Sen. Chris Hansen, one of the bill’s sponsors, told CNN that Cabrini is a local Colorado hero because of the work that she did.  While there are holidays honoring prominent women like Dolores Huerta and Rosa Parks, this would be the first paid state holiday in recognition of a woman, according to Benavidez, CNN reports. The bill will take effect no later than the beginning of August and the holiday will take place on the first Monday in October. The Italian-American Roman Catholic nun is commonly referred to as Mother Cabrini has two miracles attributed to her: she restored sight to a child who had allegedly been blinded by excess silver nitrate, and she healed a terminally ill member of her congregation.

“We need holidays to recognize the contributions of women across history,” Hansen told CNN.