As Franciscan Brother David Migliorino, principal of St. Anthony’s High School in South Huntington, reflects on the start of the new school year, his thoughts turn to an Italian nun who taught his young father on Manhattan’s lower east side many decades ago.
“Life has come full circle for me,” he tells a caller, as he describes a scholarship program funded by the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation that will provide tuition assistance to 44 students from families impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic or other extenuating circumstances.
These are students who wish to receive a Franciscan education at Brother David’s school, the largest Catholic high school on Long Island, where over 25% of its more than 2,300 students are from minority populations.
Brother David’s grandparents were born in Italy, and he knows firsthand the special place that Mother Cabrini and her congregation, the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart, have in the hearts of the many thousands of immigrants they served in New York City in the early part of the 20th century.
“Mother Cabrini and the Cabrini Sisters — that’s what we called them — have always been a special part of my family, and my life, and in the lives of so many Italian American and other immigrants in the neighborhood where I grew up,” said Brother David.
Brother David’s father was educated by the Cabrini Sisters at their mission in the basement of a church across from what was then Columbus (later Cabrini) Hospital on East 19th Street.
“I still visit there. You can’t take Manhattan out of the boy. That’s still sacred ground for me,” Brother David said, recalling serving as an altar boy for Masses in the sisters’ chapel. “Every Sunday was like seeing your Italian grandmothers. It was home. ‘You eat?’ the sisters would ask after Mass, then they’d serve boiling hot coffee in a big bowl, and they’d mash up the Italian bread they had baked the previous day and add it to the mix. Their mission even smelled like home, like pasta and gravy.”
“The sisters were inspired by Mother Cabrini herself. They were special people who transformed the world. They never stopped. They wore black habits with white smocks, which were often blood-stained from their work at the local hospital. I often think, ‘How can anyone deny God when they look at what this tiny woman, Mother Cabrini, accomplished and inspired?’”
The sisters in Brother David’s neighborhood were “incredible women who served the poorest of the poor,” including the many Irish and Jewish immigrants who also lived there.
“When we received word of the scholarship grant, I thought, ‘Mother Cabrini has done it again!’”
The scholarships funded by the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation enhance the school’s newly-formed Padre Pio Fund. During the pandemic, many students and families at St. Anthony’s endured the illness or death of loved ones, the loss of employment, or subsequent financial hardships. The grant provides either full scholarships or tuition assistance to 44 families who would not be able to attend St. Anthony’s school because of financial matters.
One student is Andrew, a rising junior from Ghana whose family came to the United States several years ago. Andrew is a bright student who loves to learn, explore and discover. He is in love with life and with St. Anthony’s High School. At Saint Anthony’s, Andrew’s grades have placed him on the school Honor Roll consistently over the past two years. He is a member of the Student Council, the retreat team program, an altar server, a lector at Mass, a member of the choir, and finds himself at every activity possible at school. This past summer he worked in St. Anthony’s summer school program, tutoring students who were having difficulty in many subjects.
“Andrew is what I hope every St. Anthony student will become. If it was not for the Padre Pio Fund, and now the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation Grant, Andrew would not be here at school and we would miss out on this great young man. I am happy to say that his brother Ivor will be attending Saint Anthony’s High School in the fall all because of the foundation’s generosity to us. In the immortal words of Mother Cabrini herself, ‘We have eternity to rest.’ This generous grant allows so many to reap the glories of the great St. Mother Cabrini and continue her legacy forever. I am so grateful that we are part of this wonderful program.”
When St. Anthony’s opened its doors in 1933, it brought to Long Island an 800-year tradition of excellence in education, founded on the Franciscan principle, “Capture the heart and the mind will follow.” The school encourages young men and women to nurture their moral, intellectual, aesthetic, and physical faculties in an atmosphere of faith, respect, and encouragement.
As Brother David puts it, “I like to think the spirit of Mother Cabrini is alive and well, and living at a high school on Long Island.”
To learn more about Brother David and his efforts at St. Anthony’s High School, please visit stanthonyshs.org