“Here we are, not far from the North Pole,” Mother Cabrini said quite seriously, on arriving in Seattle in 1903. She loved the young city, which she described in glowing terms (her childhood enthusiasm for geography stood her in good stead):
This city is charmingly situated, and is growing so rapidly that it will become another New York… The town of Seattle spreads over twenty hills; and though it is fifty degrees north latitude, it enjoys an interminable spring because of the current that comes from Japan… The bishop is very good. His name is O’Dea, and he is happy to have us in his diocese because we bear the name of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Seattle had a large population of Italian immigrants, and she found that “some of them have not seen a church for over 20, 30, 40, and 50 years.” She immediately set about remedying the situation by founding Mount Carmel Mission on Beacon Hill, followed by a school which later developed into Our Lady of Mount Virgin school and parish. In 1918 the sisters moved to a location on Lake Washington which Mother Cabrini had seen in a dream (Sacred Heart Orphanage, now Villa Academy).
In establishing Columbus Hospital she ran into difficulties. She had with much trouble and many prayers acquired the Perry Hotel which stood on Madison Street between Boren and Terry Avenues. Bishop O’Dea came to bless the building and asked her what she intended to do with it. When she told him that she wished to found a hospital, immediate objections arose. There were fears that this hospital would be too much competition for Providence, the only other Catholic hospital in the city, located nearby on Capitol Hill. Bishop O’Dea withdrew his support and in fact forbade her to found the hospital.
This opposition was devastating to her. “It is I who have alienated the blessing of God,” she told her daughters. “When I shall have gone, everything will be better.”
In her suffering, she had recourse to prayer, and she must have come very often at this time to pray at St. James Cathedral, just a block away.
When she left Seattle in November 1916, Mother Cabrini was already very ill. But before she died on December 22, 1917, Bishop O’Dea had relented, and she had the happiness of knowing that Columbus Hospital was well on its way to completion. Bishop O’Dea was the first bishop to proclaim her publicly as one of the greatest women of the twentieth century.
She was 67 old at the time of her death. She had long before chosen as her motto the words Omnia possum in eo qui me confortat-“I can do all things in him who comforts me.” The abundance of Mother Cabrini’s accomplishments seem to prove St. Paul’s bold statement true.
Mother Cabrini is commemorated in St. James Cathedral by a statue in the right hand niche of the west façade, a bronze relief plaque in the west vestibule, and by a statue in the south aisle of the west nave. Relics of Mother Cabrini were sealed beneath the altar at the time of the Cathedral’s rededication in 1994.
Adapted from: A Saint in Seattle by Maria Laughlin