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The heart does not stop beating

· Reopening in Chicago of the shrine dedicated to St Francis Cabrini, patroness of immigrants ·

The bed, the desk, the kneeler, the blanket, the holy relic, the chair, the portable tabernacle, the list of nuns. These and other simple objects accompanied a woman from Lodi in her last  hours on earth. A woman of frail health but of colossal will who lived the burning love for the Sacred Heart of Jesus, receiving the strength to realize great things. In that room in Columbus Hospital in Chicago, Mother Cabrini died on 22 December 1917, leaving 77 educational, hospital and assistance projects across the United States, Latin America and Europe. Today the room — not only in a symbolic sense but also in a sacramental one, is a place that embodies Cabrinian identity and history — can be visited at the shrine which reopened on 30 September, after a decade of being closed.

The history of the Cabrini Shrine in Chicago is interwoven with that of the surrounding Columbus Hospital which began to be built in 1905. The shrine continued its mission until  Columbus Hospital closed its doors in 2000.

At that point they attempted to sell the building. But the sale would prove to be extremely complicated, especially because the sisters placed a condition on buyers: to save the shrine located  at the center of the property. The shrine itself was placed there deliberately during construction in order to be seen from the windows of the hospital rooms and the neighboring covent. The shrine was to be a noble guardian around which all activities rotated. The superior general at the time, Lina Colombini, felt the full weight of the decision: their financial needs necessitated the sale of the buildings but at the same time their spiritual needs urged them to save the symbolic place of the charism of Mother Cabrini. As always in the history of the missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, it was Providence which came to their aid, presenting itself as a new buyer who agreed to forgo the land where the shrine stood.

Awaiting the complete demolition of the buildings of Columbus Hospital, the shrine was closed and wrapped in order to protect it. For a long time bulldozers worked around it until the moment for the renovation came, which was to be one of patience. Time, money, endless waiting, papers, projects, permits all thanks to which the sisters – courageous and bold – succeeded in securing for its renovation. Then finally after 10 years the shrine reopened its doors.

The solemn moment came on 30 September celebrated by Cardinal Francis Eugene George, Archbishop of Chicago. Present were hundreds of people from all over the United States and from the communities of Mother Cabrini. The presence of the local Church testified to the friendship and collaboration that the sisters created with their surroundings.

The shrine in Chicago is a new-found stone set in a holy work that miraculously continues to bear tenacious and faithful fruits.

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