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Archives Saint Frances Cabrini honored at local shrine

Dec. 11, 2019

By Mary Beth Bracy
Contributing writer

PEASLEEVILLE – On the feast day of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini on Nov. 13, faithful celebrated her patronage with a Mass offered by Father Alan D. Shnob, pastor of St. Augustine’s in Peru, at her shrine in Peasleeville.
Father Shnob, who played a crucial role in the shrine’s renovation, spoke about the parish’s gratitude for Cabrini’s continued favors and blessings.

Bonnie Snider attended the Mass and shared a powerful story of Cabrini’s intercession. Snider explained that when her grandson Mason was one-and-a-half years old, he was diagnosed with leukemia. Pleading for Cabrini’s assistance, Bonnie promised to visit her shrine weekly if her grandson was healed. Mason was cured and is now a 14-year-old athlete. Snider continues to travel to the shrine each week in thanksgiving.

Charles Normandin, a retired mason who helped repair the shrine, believes that he saw Cabrini there.

“I drove up to the shrine, there was a white flash, a puff, almost like you looked into a beam of light,” he said. “I looked back and there was a woman there in the mist. I got out of my car and I approached the shrine. I looked at her and she turned. I said, ‘It is a beautiful day up here,’ and she said ‘Yes, it ‘tis.’ She was looking at the work I had done, repairing the shrine. That was the year before (1995).

“I said, ‘Do you know what body of water it is down there? It’s Lake Champlain.’ ‘Oh,’ she said, ‘That’s what they call it.’ She walked off the shrine down to the side walk, she had only two steps to go down. I heard this clunk, clunk. I walked down the side walk with her and I stopped. She proceeded to keep walking on. She said, ‘Have a nice day.’ I said, ‘Yes, you have a nice day.’ And she continued on walking toward the Church. She told me ‘If you don’t want to see me vanish, look at me here. So, I turned and looked at the shrine.”

Normandin said he is convinced the vision he saw was Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, also known as Mother Cabrini.

“I was thinking of the power of the Maker to have her come; that affected me more than anything after I knew who she was,” he said. “The power of God Himself, to see it, to talk to her, it dumbfounded me, I was overwhelmed with it, kind of like a shock. It was her, definitely it was her.”

Normandin described her long skirt, wooden shoes, ruffled blouse, and accent.

“It appeared to me to be a real person,” he said. “It was as real as any person could be, like I’m looking at you. You could feel the power of God. I believe that she was looking at the shrine, but she didn’t have to look, she already knew it.”

Joyce Lucia-Kolb, a Peasleeville native, recounted the history of the shrine, located in the small Clinton County hamlet. She noted that St. Patrick’s Parish, now an oratory, wanted to honor the first American citizen to be canonized.

Father Harold P. McCabe, pastor of St. Patrick’s in 1946, the year Mother Cabrini was canonized, was greatly devoted to the saint and wanted to begin a shrine to her. Parishioners worked for its construction and, as a result, thousands of people visited the shrine from as far away as Michigan. Numerous people of all faiths came by busloads from New York City and Canada.

“The parish wanted to build a shrine to her and one of the parishioner’s volunteered,” she said. “We were a parish of farmers… All of the families donated rocks from their farms. My parents’ farm is directly across the road from the church.”

Lucia-Kolb said the shrine and Mother Cabrini have had a significant impact on her life.

“The church and the shrine were our life,” she said of her family. “We did the haying for the church land that had at one time been a part of our farm but had been donated to the church to prevent development. We cared for the flowers, candles, lawns, etc. Mother Cabrini has been my life since I was born.”

Lucia-Kolb said she believes her family experienced a miracle she attributes to Mother Cabrini’s intercession.
“When my son was a baby, he regularly had ear infections both inner and outer and often both at the same time,” she said. “The doctor wanted to do surgery. (When he was) about a year and a half old I put the relic (of Cabrini) on his ears. He never had any more infections and his hearing was superior. I remember when I was very young there was a pair of crutches left on the shrine. The caretaker said the person left them there and walked away.”

Born in 1850, near Milan, Italy, Cabrini loved the Holy Eucharist from a young age. She longed to be a religious, but her health was too poor to join the teaching Sisters. Cabrini founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, desiring to travel to China, but the Pope told them to go to the United States instead. They left Italy in 1889 and arrived in New York City without a home.

Father Shnob noted that, although only five feet tall, Mother Cabrini was indomitable. She and the sisters in her community ministered to Italian immigrants and traveled the Americas and Europe founding schools, orphanages, and hospitals.

At the time of Cabrini’s death in 1917, she had over 4,000 sisters and more than 50 houses, in addition to 67 institutions: hospitals, schools, and orphanages worldwide. Though afraid of water, Cabrini crossed the Atlantic 23 times. She is patroness of immigrants. Her incorrupt body is on display at St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Shrine in Manhattan.

Recently Mother Cabrini was in the news when the New York City public arts program decided to build statues of women in our state. When they held a poll to decide which statues to erect, Mother Cabrini received the most votes. Nevertheless, they decided not to include her.

Citizens spoke up, however, and Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that a statue of Cabrini will be sculpted.

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