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Excitement at shrine over major motion picture, "Cabrini"

Excitement at shrine over major motion picture, "Cabrini"
Excitement at shrine over major motion picture, "Cabrini" 02:52

The opening of a biopic about Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini is bringing interest and excitement to the shrine that remains in her name near Lookout Mountain. 

The film Cabrini is set to open at over 3,000 theaters across the country on March 8. It tells the story of part of her life as she battled to care for immigrants, especially children in New York City.

"I personally was very excited," said Father John Lager, a Capuchin Franciscan Friar who conducts masses at the chapel at the shrine and helps raise funds to keep the work of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus started by Mother Cabrini going. "The movie will capitalize on the story of her arrival in New York and her working with the poor of the ghettos of New York. And you'll see the poverty that's there." 

Rising above a foothills mountain, the statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus somehow appears taller than 22 feet over its base on top of a mountain that is part of the Mother Cabrini Shrine. 


Visible for miles, it somehow seems greater in stature like Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini was in life. A tenacious though small and often sickly woman, Mother Cabrini became the first person to be canonized in the United States. 

She is the Catholic church's patron saint of immigrants for her work in opening schools and orphanages. She came to the United States, sent by Pope Leo XIII in the late 1800s to help immigrants who were arriving in the United States into abject poverty. 

The film follows that part of her life where she faced opposition from religious leaders in New York. It is less a religious film than one more inspirational and about the opposition she faced as a woman to her tireless efforts.

Fr. Lager is among those shown an advance cut of the movie last year. He recalled a "wonderful scene of her literally walking through the Italian ghettos. And with just such boldness, with her sisters."   

The shrine's executive director JoAnn Seaman has also seen the advance screening. 

"She started schools and orphanages and helped so man of the Italian families that were in dire need," Seaman said. 


In Colorado, many Italians came to do dangerous work in the mines. Often it was children of miners who were killed who would end up in the orphanage, which was located at present day I-70 and Federal Boulevard.

It was torn down years ago after orphanages were closed in favor of a transition to foster families. In 2020, Colorado lawmakers voted to honor her with a state holiday in October, replacing Columbus Day. 

The shrine was created after she was canonized in the 1940s, from property where she founded a camp.  

Her time in Colorado is not part of the film, but increased attention to the story of Mother Cabrini may well lead to increased visits at the shrine, which already has over 100,000 visitors a year. 

Already with the buzz about the movie, there has been an increase in visits at the Cabrini Shrine in New York City, with talk about the movie there. Seaman does not worry about a big increase in visitors with the movie coming out. 


"That would be a good problem to have," said Seaman. 

The advance cut she saw seemed accurate. And while there are cinematic liberties with the story, Cabrini could renew interest in a remarkable and powerful woman of faith.

"This is not her whole life of holiness, but it captures her indominable spirit. So it's just a really beautiful thing," said Fr. Lager.

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