For the second time in three years, a statue was a focal point of a homily at the Columbus Day Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
The 42nd annual Mass, celebrated by Cardinal Dolan Oct. 14, came before Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who was preparing to march in the 75th annual Columbus Day Parade, announced that state aid will be used to assist Italian-American groups and the Diocese of Brooklyn in constructing a St. Frances Xavier Cabrini statue.
The governor’s announcement came after Mother Cabrini was snubbed for a statue after she received the most votes in a public poll connected with the She Built NYC project, designed to identify women who made their mark on New York City history. Chirlane McCray, the wife of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, is overseeing the project.
Mother Cabrini, the patron saint of immigrants and founder of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, was the first U.S. citizen to become a saint when she was canonized in 1946. An immigrant herself, she came to New York from her native Italy in 1889 and opened schools, orphanages and hospitals. She is buried at St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Shrine in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan.
In his homily, Msgr. Thomas Sandi, pastor of Holy Trinity in Manhattan and regional dean for West Manhattan, drew loud applause on three occasions when he spoke of Mother Cabrini as one of “two compassionate Catholic heroes for immigrants” in New York along with Blessed Giovanni Battista Scalabrini.
“Who received the most votes by a two to one margin? Mamma Francesca Cabrini,” said Msgr. Sandi, drawing applause from the congregation.
Msgr. Sandi again was cheered when he said, “Now, as for a suitable, outdoor statue of Momma Cabrini, it will be erected one way or another, if necessary through private funding, on the streets of New York.”
In 2017, now-retired Auxiliary Bishop Dominick Lagonegro discussed the controversial topic then being considered—removal of Christopher Columbus statues, including the one at Columbus Circle in Manhattan.
Cardinal Dolan opened the Mass with a welcome in English and Italian. He was joined on the altar by bishops and priests including Archbishop Bernardito Auza, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations; Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio of the Diocese of Brooklyn; retired New York Auxiliary Bishop Gerald Walsh; Msgr. Joseph LaMorte, vicar general of the archdiocese; and Msgr. Robert Ritchie, rector of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Massimo Ferragamo, chairman of Ferragamo USA and grand marshal of the Columbus Day Parade, and Marian Pardo, president of the Columbus Citizens Foundation and sponsor of the parade, attended the Mass as did honorees Giovanni Colavita, CEO and president of Colavita USA; restaurateurs Cosimo, Gerardo and Giuseppe Bruno; and Rosanna Scotto, co-host of FOX 5’s “Good Day New York.”
“It’s always an occasion of joy for us here at St. Patrick’s Cathedral to celebrate the Columbus Day Mass,” Cardinal Dolan said.
The Mass concluded with the singing of the national anthems of Italy and the United States before the congregation headed outside for the parade up Fifth Avenue.
Diana Marie Paunetto attended the Mass with her mother, Anna Marie Mistretta, and brother, Brandon Paunetto. Diana Marie, 15, a soprano soloist and choir member at St. Saviour parish in Brooklyn, sang while riding on the Diocese of Brooklyn float featuring a statue of St. Cabrini.
“We’re here to celebrate our Italian heritage and I’m very excited to be here because it’s my first year on the float for the diocese and I will be singing many different songs,” Diana Marie told CNY.
Brandon, 19, said he was excited about marching in the parade and hearing his sister sing before speaking about the importance of the St. Cabrini statue.
“I know our entire family, we have so much hope the statue will get done because it has so much value, not just with my family but the entire Italian community,” he said.
Michaiella Scipioni, 16, is a junior at Maria Regina High School in Hartsdale and a recipient of a Columbus Citizens Foundation scholarship. Participating in her third Columbus Day Parade, she rode on one of the Columbus Citizens Foundation floats with other scholarship winners.
“It’s such a nice thing that they do to celebrate Columbus Day,” said Michaiella, a parishioner of Annunciation and Our Lady of Fatima parish in Crestwood.
“I like going on the float and waving to all the people watching me. It’s so much fun.”
Joseph Cala, a freshman at Fordham Preparatory School and parishioner of St. Theresa of the Infant Jesus, both in the Bronx, was participating in his first parade.
“It’s very special to have the day and the parade because you feel honored your heritage is being celebrated and is important to society,” he said.