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Extraordinary life of Saint Frances Cabrini to be captured on film

PHILADELPHIA (PRNewswire) -- She impacted millions yet no one knows her name.

The remarkable and largely unknown story of Saint Francesca Cabrini, a poor, frail yet strong-willed woman from Italy who changed the landscape of immigration, education, and healthcare for generations of immigrants to the United States is about to become a movie.

Cabrini, which begins production next year and will be distributed via streaming services, will be shot in New York, and be directed by Alejandro Monteverde.  

Monteverde gained world-renown by winning the People's Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival with his first feature film, Bella, a Mexican romance. 

The film is being produced by Jonathan Sanger, whose films (including The Elephant Man, The Producers and Vanilla Sky) have received three Academy Awards and 21 Academy Award Nominations, among numerous other awards.  

Backers of the film have established a 501(c)(3) which will redistribute film revenues to charitable organizations.

"We knew the story of Francesca Cabrini needed to be told, especially in the challenging times we are living through," said Stephen Highsmith, Vice President for Institutional Advancement of Cabrini University. "People need hope, and this project will educate millions of people about Cabrini's incredible humanitarian contributions, which we believe have increased relevance today."

Extraordinary Story

Born in a tiny village in Italy in 1850, Cabrini's childhood made her unlikely to ever leave the borders of her native Lombardy. 

She survived tuberculosis only to be stricken with smallpox and lifelong bronchitis.  Before her twelfth birthday, she was given, at most, a few years to live. 

And yet, despite her frailty, her resolve was unwavering, once quipping, "The world is too small for what I intend to do." 

By the end of her life, Cabrini had founded over 67 hospitals, orphanages and schools across the globe. 

She was responsible for the largest transnational humanitarian empire the world had ever known, exceeding the charitable endeavors of all her contemporaries, said to include the Vanderbilts and the Rockefellers combined. 

And all this Francesca Cabrini did as a woman (well before the right to vote, when women had no voice), as an immigrant (at a time when migrants were considered second-class citizens) and as a leader (as part of a male-dominant church structure). 

"She was an extraordinary woman who overcame insurmountable odds, with and for the singular, simple goal of helping others," said producer Jonathan Sanger.  In Cabrini's own words "As I see it, the mission is simply this: Loving other human beings."

Lasting Legacy

Cabrini's hospitals would become the model of inclusive health care for the entire country – adapting standards of care, cleanliness and organization that were as innovative in her time as they are standard now. 

Her child-centered educational philosophy preceded and mirrored those of Montessori schools worldwide, changing the very nature of classroom education. 

In 1946, Cabrini was canonized for her tireless care for the poor, the orphan and the immigrant.   

After her canonization, a young woman was inspired to model her life after Mother Cabrini.  In 1950 she established her own order, that woman was Mother Theresa of Calcutta. 

"St. Frances Xavier Cabrini has much to teach us at this time in history," said Eustace Wolfington, primary sponsor of the film.  "Faced with forces of ill-will and hostility, this little woman with enormous strength and fortitude built a worldwide empire of hope.  We believe the time is right to tell her story."

Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York couldn't agree more.  On Columbus Day, October 12, 2020, the state of New York unveiled a monument of Francesca Cabrini on the shores of the Hudson River. 

"She served the poor and the immigrants.  She had boundless energy and unlimited capacity and she was a model for female empowerment before the expression was ever used – doing all of this in the late 1800s and early 1900s," said the Governor. 

Against a present backdrop of heightened national tensions, the movie Cabrini highlights one of the boldest experiments in social empowerment in American history, following the footsteps of such classic films as Gandhi and Schindler's List.

"Cabrini's story is one of equity and inclusion.  Of dignity, hope and love.  She also represents the embodiment of the American ethos. A phenomenally skilled entrepreneur, politician, saleswoman and chief executive, any Fortune 1,000 CEO can find the qualities of successful leadership in Cabrini.  "Her story is the American story. In fact, she is one of the greatest women in American history, if not the greatest," says Eustace Wolfington, with hints of emotion as he speaks about Mother Cabrini, "she's one of our own, let's make her known."

Cabrini will commence principal photography in the second quarter of 2021, filming throughout the state of New York.

For more information about how you can help support the production, email or call Marjorie Heany 610-304-3820.

SOURCES: Cabrini Film; PRNewswire

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