“In America, the greatest nation on earth, the rats have it better than the children of Italian immigrants.”

Such was the observation of Mother Francesca Cabrini when she arrived in New York City in 1889 after being commissioned by the Pope to serve the people of Five Points, a crime-ridden and disease-ravaged tenement slum. Amidst the destitution, prostitution, and extreme poverty, Mother Cabrini quickly established a home for the abandoned children living on the city’s unforgiving streets. The vision to build an “Empire of Hope” had started.

On March 8, her incredible and inspirational story comes to the silver screen with the debut of Cabrini. Released by Angel Studios on International Women’s Day, Cabrini was directed by Alejandro Monteverde (Sound Of Freedom), and stars Italian actor Cristiana Dell’Anna, John Lithgow (Third Rock From the Sun, Footloose), and David Morse (The Green Mile, St. Elsewhere). The film’s spectacular cinematography and captivating musical soundtrack combine beautifully with a fearless performance by Dell’Anna as Mother Cabrini.

“Francesca Cabrini is one of the most inspiring and influential figures in modern history, and yet few know her story. Faced with seemingly insurmountable life obstacles, Cabrini chose instead to focus on how she could change the status quo in her time, and her impact on the world is still felt today,” said Liz Ellis, Chief Operating Officer at Angel Studios.

Francesca Xavier Cabrini was born in northern Italy in 1850. Over 34 years, she established 67 hospitals, orphanages, and schools all over the world. After serving in Lombardy, Italy, she and six of her Missionary Sisters set off for New York City. Their resilient, compassionate, and Christ-like work there would soon spread across the globe.

Despite the inviting words on the Statue of Liberty that proclaim, “Give me your tired, your poor…” New York City was not a welcoming place for Cabrini and the Italians of that time. In addition to suffering from chronic health issues, she faced opposition from sexism, prejudice, crooked politicians, and Catholic leaders. Yet, Mother Cabrini, one of the great social entrepreneurs, persevered with faith and courage to build an orphanage on the Hudson River and a desperately needed hospital in Manhattan.

“We are bold, or we die,” she tells the Pope in the film.

From the beginning of “Cabrini” to the final credits, the value and dignity of life is a prevalent theme. In a pivotal scene, Mother Cabrini sails back to her homeland to ask the Italian Senate for a loan that will fund her hospital in New York and send a lifeline to their countrymen in the New World.

In a passionate plea to men of power, Mother Cabrini mirrors the Words of Jesus in Matthew 25:40 (“Whatever you did for one of the least of these…”).

“One small gesture of love can change everything,” she says. “A word of hope. A touch. The medicine of a loving hand… These are the things that change the world. At the hour of our death, we will be asked one question – what did you do for the poor? The sick? The homeless? Or those stripped of dignity? What did we do?”

After a lifetime of selfless, faithful service, Mother Francesca Cabrini passed away in Chicago in 1917. In 1946, she was canonized as a saint by Pope Pius XII.

“The world is too small for what I intend to do,” she said.

Today, in the first quarter of the 21st Century, Angel Studios’ production of “Cabrini” boldly stands as a testament to her legacy of love and compassion for the least of these.