DENVER — Colorado will celebrate its first ever Frances Xavier Cabrini Day on Monday after a three-decade struggle to replace Columbus Day.
Democratic Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed a bill in March to recognize the humanitarian contributions of Cabrini on the first Monday of October, the month that Cabrini became a naturalized United States citizen in 1909, Colorado Public Radio reported.
Cabrini was an Italian-American immigrant who arrived in Colorado in 1902. In 1946, she became the first American citizen to be made a saint by the Catholic Church. She founded the Mount Carmel convent and grade school, and opened 67 institutions throughout the Americas and in Europe. She also founded the Queen of Heaven Orphanage in Denver and the Sisters of the Sacred Heart.
Cabrini is now the first woman to be recognized with a paid state holiday in the United States.
Lawmakers in Colorado’s General Assembly have introduced six bills to repeal or replace Columbus Day as a state holiday since 2016, with four of them sponsored by Adams County Rep. Adrienne Benavidez.
“Columbus is not the type of person we should venerate in this state because of the atrocities that he directly committed or committed under his watch,” Benavidez said.
The American Indian Movement of Colorado has made efforts to remove Columbus Day since 1989, arguing the holiday celebrated the explorer as a hero while ignoring his role in the extermination of indigenous populations.
Coloradans for Cabrini Day co-leader Steve O’Dorisio said it took 30 years of conflict to come up with a solution.
“We were able to find a compromise that people felt was good enough to get behind,” O’Dorisio said.