Cinema: “Cabrini”, the story of a woman who built a charity empire

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“Cabrini”, in theaters this Wednesday, March 20, traces the story of Sister Francesca Cabrini, an Italian nun who arrived in New York in 1889 to help thousands of Italian immigrants. A biopic with a polished aesthetic that plunges the viewer into the heart of the squalid neighborhood of Five Points, alongside the daring nun who upset the established order.

New York, 1889. In the working-class neighborhood of Five Points, Italian migrants are crowded into unsanitary housing. Due to a lack of access to healthcare or jobs allowing them to feed themselves, they die of hunger and disease in the streets, in total indifference. Nearly 9,000 kilometers away, a nun, Sister Francesca Cabrini , dreams of building “an empire of charity” in China made up of orphanages, schools and hospitals. His health problems closed the doors of religious communities to him and his missionary dream vanished. No matter, she became a teacher and created the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus with several friends in 1880 . Year after year, she suffered the Pope’s refusal to send her on a mission due to her health problems. However, through tenacity, Leo XIII decided to send him to New York to the bedside of Italian migrants. It is this story that the film “Cabrini” recounts, in theaters in France on March 20.

Brilliantly played by Italian actress Cristiana Dell’Anna, Sister Francesca Cabrini will commit herself wholeheartedly to the most deprived. She first undertook the construction of an orphanage in the heart of Five Points, followed by the creation of a hospital.

Directed by Alejandro Monteverde, to whom we also owe the feature film “  Sound of Freedom ”, this film with its polished aesthetic takes the viewer into the depths of New York from the first minutes. We begin to hope alongside Mother Cabrini and the nuns, to revolt at the living conditions of Italian migrants and the behavior of New York high society. But, above all, to hope that the nun succeeds in her audacious bet. Which she does, through resilience and determination.

Mother Cabrini was also a daring entrepreneur. She built an empire comparable to that of the Rockefellers.

She does not hesitate to knock on the doors of all the institutions likely to finance her project, to bring in a journalist to write about living conditions and raise public awareness. A tireless fighter, she pushes the limits imposed by society and her own body. “Mother Cabrini was also a daring entrepreneur. She built an empire comparable to that of the Rockefellers,” the director confided in an interview with the National Catholic Register . “She is a woman who arrived here with nothing; it’s an inspiring story of an outsider. She constantly fought for the good of others. She couldn’t sleep knowing that children were sleeping on the streets in her neighborhood. Not only did she fight the male-led institutions of her time, but she also fought for her own health. »

Naturalized American on October 9, 1909, she created around sixty schools, orphanages and hospitals around the world. While suffering from aquaphobia, she made 23 transatlantic trips to carry out missionary work around the world. She died in 1917 at the age of 67, and was canonized in 1946 by Pope Pius XII and became the first American citizen to become a saint. Four years later, Cabrini received the title of patron saint of migrants . “Migrants certainly need good laws, development programs, organization,” but “above all, love, friendship, human proximity; they need to be listened to, looked in the eyes, accompanied,” recalled Pope Francis a few years ago when receiving the new generation of missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Mother Cabrini, he stressed, had “the courage to look in the eyes of the orphaned children entrusted to her, the unemployed young people who were tempted to criminalize themselves, the men and women exploited for the most humble work. “.

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