Pop-Up Exhibit in New York City Gives Special Insight into Mother Cabrini’s Life

Tags: Currents Brooklyn, NY, Faith, Inspiration, Italian American, Italian-Americans, Missionary Sister of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Mother Cabrini, St. Frances Cabrini Shrine

By Emily Drooby

Tucked away at the St. Frances Cabrini Shrine in northern Manhattan, there is a room filled with relics of Mother Cabrini. It’s a pop-up exhibit, perfectly timed for the saint’s birthday that marks 75 years since her canonization.

Inside the treasure trove, you can find a calling card, her clothes, a bed she slept in – all items the saint owned or used often.

Her laundry mark adorns her sheets and even her socks. Marking clothes was how the sisters identified who owned what, since their linens were identical.

Yet, inside one room is the most important relic of all: her body.

Executive Director Julia Attaway says every year thousands come here for a chance to feel closer to the beloved saint.

“With a saint as a Catholic, those are our heroes and we want to be in contact with those who are great in that way because we can learn from them,” Julia said. “We can hopefully imagine that we can become great too.”

Now, visitors can feel even closer and learn even more about the saint who built orphanages, schools, hospitals and served the Italian immigrant community in New York City.

This pop-up gives a glimpse into who she really was, through things like the size of her frock.

“And when you stand near it, you realize she was really tiny, she was really a little thing,” explained Julia. “Her immigration papers when she became a citizen, it says that she was 5 feet tall.”

She added, “I like the fact that she was so little and so strong.”

The space is filled with little gems of knowledge that a person can’t get from a photo.

Sister Antonina Avitabile is a Missionary Sister of the Sacred Heart of Jesus which is part of the congregation that Mother Cabrini founded.

“She was human,” Sister Antonina said. “She ate like we did, she slept like we did, she was a person…if Mother could do so many good things, we can too.”