On Tuesday, November 13th 2012, the Villa Academy community will dedicate the “Miracle Room” with a brief ceremony and the unveiling of a special bronze plaque to commemorate the site of the second of two miracles credited to St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, the foundress of Villa Academy. The program will begin in the Academy’s Parlor at 9:30 AM and will be followed by refreshments, also in the Parlor.
Mother Frances Cabrini died on December 22, 1917 in Chicago, Illinois. Since her death, at least two miracles, investigated and confirmed by the authorities of the Catholic Church in the Vatican, have been attributed to her. These miracles were the foundation for Frances Cabrini’s canonization on July 7, 1946 as the first American citizen to be proclaimed a saint of the Roman Catholic Church.
The first miracle associated with Mother Cabrini occurred in 1921. On March 21st of that year, Peter Smith, a newborn infant at Columbus Hospital in New York had a solution of 50% nitrate (instead of the customary 1% solution of nitrate) applied to his eyes. Until the development and widespread adoption of antibiotics, diluted solutions of silver nitrate were dropped into the eyes of newborns at birth to prevent the contraction of certain diseases from the mother. With the application of the 50% solution to Peter’s eyes, blindness resulted.
The Sisters caring for the baby placed a relic of the late Mother Cabrini on the child and, after they prayed for a cure, Mother Cabrini interceded with the first miracle accredited to her. The next day, doctors were astounded when they found no damage whatsoever to the infant’s eyes. The baby, Peter Smith, later became a Catholic priest and visited Villa Academy in the 1980s.
The second miracle credited to Mother Cabrini occurred at Villa Academy. The event was recorded in the May 1959 edition of St. Joseph Magazine as follows:
As Josephine Graziola, Sr. Delfina was received into the society [the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus] by Mother Cabrini in Italy in 1911. In 1914 she came to the United States and in 1916 went west to Seattle. There she was put in charge of the nurses’ quarters at old Columbus Hospital. The miracle, to which she testified at Mother Cabrini’s Cause for Canonization, happened like this:
“In 1925 I got very sick,” Sr. Delfina relates simply. “I couldn’t hold anything in my stomach. I had four major operations and finally the doctors said my only chance was another operation. I refused. I couldn’t even stand up; I was so weak. All I had, each day, was a small bit of the Host when they brought communion to me.
One day the bishop came to [Sacred Heart Villa to] confirm the orphanage girls and he came to see me too. After he gave me his blessing he told me to pray to [Mother Cabrini] our foundress. I didn’t see how there was any hope; I was a skeleton. But I prayed and so did all of my sisters. Finally one night, the 14th of December 1925, I couldn’t sleep and I looked up and Mother [Cabrini] was standing there. She shook her finger at me, just like she always did and said: ‘I’m going to send you to work.’ Then she smiled and disappeared.
I didn’t know what to think. For two days I didn’t tell anyone and just kept saying to myself, Mother told me… Mother told me… but I felt so much better that everyone could see the change. The next day I ate three meals and kept them all down. Then I told my confessor what had happened and said that I had to get up by December 22nd (the anniversary of Mother Cabrini’s death) and he told me to just get up and go to the [Villa] chapel by myself. I did.”
Sr. Delfina lived for 42 more years following her cure in 1925; she died on November 23, 1967 at the age of 76 and is buried at nearby Calvary Cemetery with many other Missionary Sisters from the Seattle community.
The room in which Sr. Delfina received her miracle is currently the Office of Admission and Community Relations, on the second floor, directly across from the Academy’s Parlor.
Villa Academy (formerly, Sacred Heart Villa Academy) remains a special place in the hearts of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus due to its rich history and the involvement of Mother Cabrini. They continue to remember Villa in their prayers – and the Villa Academy community is grateful for the dedication of the Sisters in the building of a literal and spiritual foundation for educating our young students.
All members of the Villa Academy community are invited to join Board Chair Mark Grey (Villa Academy Class of 1984), Fr. Stephen Okumu (pastor of St. Bridget Parish), Fr. Tim Saur (former pastor of St. Bridget Parish), Sr. Renee Kittelson, MSC (Resource Coordinator, Cabrini Senior Housing, Seattle) and me in this important celebration of Villa Academy’s spirit and heritage!
Head of School