Community Voices
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‘Cabrini.’ (photo: Angel Studios)

Inspiration can come from various places in our lives. 

Whether it’s a story about someone who has overcome adversity by committing everything they had to achieve a particular goal or someone who spends countless hours helping others, these examples inspire us. 

In many cases, these may be people near and dear to our hearts. For example, maybe it’s a friend who overcame a terrible tragedy, a person battling a terminal disease with courage, or a grandparent or parent who left their home country to make a better life for themselves and their family here in America. For many of us in San Pedro, all of these ring true. 

When I went to see the movie Cabrini, I didn’t know what to expect because my only reference was her stained glass window at Mary Star. 

The movie depicts the life of Catholic Missionary Frances Xavier Cabrini and her passion for helping the poor and building an orphanage in China. After being rejected multiple times, her persistence convinced the Pope of her vision, so the Pope sent her to care for the poor Italian immigrants in New York. What she found was her people in despair and looked upon as those “brown skin people,” denigrated with threats of violence and prostitution, all while being referred to as “dagos.” 

This reminded me of when my father told me that the word “dago” should not be used because it denigrates Italians. I realized I had never heard him or any other Italian immigrants use that word. I had only heard it from first- and second-generation Italians. It’s a word we should refrain from using.

After being sent back to Italy by the local cardinal, Mother Cabrini’s persistence convinces the Pope to overrule the cardinal. She returns to New York and stands up to the powers that be. Eventually, she establishes a first-rate hospital to provide much-needed medical care to the immigrant community — Columbus Hospital. 

Eventually, her missionary work established 67 institutions worldwide, including in China, just as she envisioned. She died in 1917 at age 67 and became the first American saint in 1946. 

The movie not only sheds light on the importance of standing up for what you believe in but doing what’s right in the face of adversity, to give of oneself for the betterment of others, to stand up for those who don’t know how to stand up for themselves, and to not take “no” for an answer, especially when you know that answer was given out of spite. 

The movie is also a reminder that the promise of America is still real today. The United States is still the only country in the world that millions are flocking to, not from. Anything is possible in this country through hard work, commitment, and dedication to making a better life for oneself, one’s family, and for others. Mother Cabrini and her Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus exemplify that promise. spt

Anthony Pirozzi, Jr.

Anthony Pirozzi, Jr. is a retired San Pedro resident and former Los Angeles Harbor Commissioner. He can be reached at