St. Cabrini Home

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Original grounds of Sacred Heart Orphan Asylum, circa 1890
Mother Cabrini School built 1934

Saint Cabrini Home (formerly the Sacred Heart Orphan Asylum or the Sacred Heart Orphanage) was a non-profit organization that served New York State youth with social or emotional difficulties, established in 1890 by Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini.


At the behest of Pope Leo XIII, Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini, founder of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart, traveled from Italy to New York City with seven of her Sisters to serve the burgeoning population of Italian emigrants to the United States. Within weeks of arriving in New York City, the Sisters were caring for a small group of orphaned or unsupervised young girls in a donated Fifth Avenue apartment.

Realizing that they needed a larger property, with land, to provide for the children, Cabrini purchased a property in West Park, Ulster County, New York from the Society of Jesuits to serve as an orphanage for Italian immigrant girls. The property included a monastery and working farm. Because the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart is a begging order, all properties purchased by the Sisters are and were funded through gifts and loans, and not the Catholic Church. Having run their well dry, and believing there to be no water on the grounds, the Jesuits sold the property at a fraction of its worth. Cabrini envisioned digging for a spring that would provide enough water for the fledgling orphanage; surprisingly, the spring, found just up the hill to the west of the main road, provides water to the campus to this day.[1]

Within weeks of opening the orphanage, the Sisters began accepting children from a variety of backgrounds from Poughkeepsie, Newburgh, Kingston, and other local communities. Archives of records from this time period are available for viewing by appointment in a museum room located at St. Cabrini Home’s campus.[2]

St. Cabrini Home served as the novitiate and United States home base for the Mother Cabrini and her Sisters for decades. Upon her death in Chicago on December 22, 1917, Mother Cabrini was buried at her beloved West Park campus, as per her wishes. Her body remained entombed there until her exhumation in 1931, and was moved to the St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Shrine[3] in New York City in 1946 upon her canonization.

Expansion and community support[edit]

Mother Cabrini’s canonization brought new attention to the orphanage, attracting visitors from around the world. In 1959, the agency officially incorporated as St. Cabrini Home, Inc., which brought changes in governance. In 1968, the agency began accepting the infant brothers of girls already in care at the home. The campus program remained co-ed until 2004. St. Cabrini Home also expanded its programs to provide community-based living in group homes locally.

Throughout these changes, and as Cabrini’s worldwide network of institutions grew, Cabrini and her Sisters relied on the support of the communities surrounding the orphanage. This support has included donations of food, supplies, and money; local families volunteering to host orphaned children for the holidays; and tickets, transportation, and food for outings for the children provided by local businessmen. Today, much of the work performed at the agency is performed by dedicated lay people, and community support remains critical to the legacy of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart.

Modern era[edit]

In 2004 the center reverted to a single-sex facility licensed by the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services.[4]

On August 5, 2009, a young woman committed suicide by jumping in front of a truck on 9w. Both Benedictine Hospital and newspaper the Daily Freeman, along with several witnesses documented that the young woman was extremely depressed and expressed an urge to kill herself prior to the incident because the hospital had released her back to Cabrini, despite her wishes not to return. A former employee also notes that staff had been instructed to give the same story in response to a similar incident.[5] [6]

On April 13, 2010, cottage supervisor Howard Wilson was arrested and faces felony charges of raping a 16-year-old female resident of the facility.[7]

In 2011 Wilson pleaded guilty to felony rape and was sentenced to 10 years probation.[8][9]

On September 4, 2010, there was a rock and debris throwing incident which led to a NYS Trooper's patrol car being hit with a cinder block chunk. In addition to the alleged perpetrators, two Cabrini staffers and were also arrested on charges of acting in a manner injurious to a minor for, as police put it, "doing little or nothing to stop the girls during the roughly two hours that they threw rocks and other debris at cars zipping along the highway."[10]

After the conviction and stone throwing incident, the Cabrini facility for young women was closed in 2011.[11]


  1. ^ St. Cabrini Spring""
  2. ^ St. Cabrini Home
  3. ^ Mother Cabrini Shrine, NYC
  4. ^ New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services
  5. ^ Kingston Daily Freeman (August 11, 2009). "Woman hit by truck made suicide threats". Kingston Daily Freeman.
  6. ^ Kingston Daily Freeman (August 9, 2009). "Driver in fatal accident won't be charged". Kingston Daily Freeman.
  7. ^ Kingston Daily Freeman (April 13, 2010). "Supervisor at West Park group home accused of raping resident". Kingston Daily Freeman.
  8. ^ Kingston Daily Freeman (July 13, 2011). "Former group home employee to be sentenced for rape". Kingston Daily Freeman.
  9. ^ "Former group home employee to be sentenced for rape," Paul Kirby, Daily Freeman 16 Aug 2011
  10. ^ Adam Bosch (September 9, 2010). "Five Teens Face Charges in Rock Throwing Incident; Two Youth Home Staffers also Arrested". Times Herald-Record.
  11. ^ Dutchess County group interested in using St. Cabrini Home in Esopus to house border orphans, William J Kemble, The Daily Freeman 17 July 2014

External links[edit]