featured image

Kathryn Swegart shares why her 7-year-old granddaughter appreciated Claudia Cangilla McAdam's new picture-book biography of a popular saint.

Mother Cabrini: A Heart for the World  

Written by Claudia Cangilla McAdam; illustrated by Richard Cowdrey  


Recently, my son and his family visited us for the weekend. As with any time spent with the grandchildren, every minute was packed with activity. During this time, my 7-year-old granddaughter (I will call her Cecilia), noticed the Mother Cabrini picture book on the table. It recounts the beginnings of Mother Cabrini’s missionary work with Italian immigrants in New York City during the 1800s. 


Mother Cabrini A Heart for the World


A captivating book for children

Cecilia was immediately drawn to the story. Here were hungry orphan children living in a sewer beneath the streets of New York City. Rats darted over their feet and sewer water flowed past them. Cecelia turned the page. A colorful painting of Mother Cabrini stared out from the page. 

The missionary sister introduced herself.  

“I am Francesca Cabrini,” the woman says. “You won’t be alone anymore. Jesus loves you, and so do I. Come.” 

On the next page, we see children eating a hot meal around the table of an orphanage. 

I watched Cecilia. Despite the happy bustle around her, Cecilia kept reading. 

“What do you like about the book?” I asked. 

“That she was kind,” she replied. 




Mother Cabrini is a shining example of heroic virtue. Despite suffering from poor health most of her life, Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini founded 67 schools, orphanages, and hospitals in the United States and other countries. What a blessing for children to learn about the first canonized American saint. It is the first picture book depicting her life. 

In this well-written and colorful book, author Claudia Cangilla McAdam teams up with illustrator Richard Cowdrey to deftly portray a saint immersed in the corporal works of mercy. Without preaching, McAdam weaves into the story the profound passage from Matthew’s Gospel: 

I was hungry and you gave me food, 
I was thirsty and you gave me drink, 
A stranger and you welcomed me, 
Naked and you clothed me, 
Ill and you cared for me, 
In prison, and you visited me. (Matthew 25:35-36) 


This past spring, Mother Cabrini appeared in the limelight through the popular movie Cabrini, produced by Angel Studios. Artist Richard Cowdrey used the actress as model for the illustrations for this story. Angel Studios also produced the book in partnership with Sophia Institute Press. Although the movie was filled with fine cinematography and acting, it was criticized for eliminating the faith dimension of this saint.  

Fortunately, in this picture book Mother Cabrini’s faith in Jesus Christ shines through on every page.  


What will children learn from this book?

The author includes a brief biography of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini. It helps readers to appreciate the breadth of her missionary work around the world. She died in 1917 at the age of 67. Pope Pius XII canonized her in 1946. 

In the Nicene Creed we profess belief in the communion of saints: our friends and intercessors in heaven. McAdam’s book is an inspiring story for children. Truly, they will see a woman filled with faith and heroic virtue. 

Ask for Mother Cabrini: A Heart for the World at your local Catholic bookseller, or order online from Amazon.com or the publisher, Sophia Institute Press.


Is this a book you'd like to read? Share your thoughts with the Catholic Mom community! You'll find the comment box below the author's bio and list of recommended articles.



Copyright 2024 Kathryn Swegart
Images: Canva; interior image from the book copyright 2024 Sophia Institute Press, all rights reserved.