A statue of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, the patron of immigrants, now stands overlooking the New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty.
Unveiled during a dedication ceremony in Battery Park City on Columbus Day, Oct. 12, the statue honors Mother Cabrini, as she is best known. She is revered for not only her devotion to immigrants but also to children and the destitute.
The sculpture, designed by Jill and Giancarlo Biagi, shows the saint “in motion and taking care of children” and it “does her justice,” Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio said in his remarks at the ceremony. “I know for the artists it was a work of passion.”
“We hope that people who visit this memorial will recognize that history should be repeated, that there was a care for the outcast and marginalized which Mother Cabrini understood, and we need that same care today,” the bishop said. “This is not just history, we want to make history with a new understanding of how we take care of people.”
Others at the dedication ceremony included Gov. Andrew Cuomo and fellow members of the Mother Cabrini Memorial Commission.
“This statue of Mother Cabrini recognizes both her contributions as an Italian immigrant woman, as well as those of all Italian American and immigrant women,” said commission member John Leo Heyer II at the ceremony.
“She is a shining symbol of what it means to care for the other person, the sick, the uneducated, the economically challenged and the stranger, always putting the needs of society’s most vulnerable above her own,” he added.
“I hope that people will see this heroic statue, ask questions, learn about her outstanding life and work to imitate it as we all build New York’s future together.”
Bishop DiMarzio, who is co-chairman of the Mother Cabrini Memorial Commission, said he was happy so many people supported the effort to fund the creation of the statue of the saint and find a site for it after Mother Cabrini was passed over in an initiative to increase the number of statues of women in New York City.
Last year, the city’s first lady, Chirlane McCray, and her She Built NYC commission rejected Mother Cabrini for one of those statues, even though the saint received the most nominations of any of the 320 women nominated.
Outrage over the snubbing of Mother Cabrini prompted a march in Brooklyn Oct. 6, 2019, that drew more than 1,000 people, including many Italian Americans. It was led by Bishop DiMarzio and Msgr. David Cassato, director of the Brooklyn Diocese’s Italian Apostolate.
This reaction led Cuomo to announce the formation of a state commission to work with the Columbus Citizens Foundation and the Diocese of Brooklyn to raise the money for a Cabrini statue.
During last year’s Columbus Day Parade in Manhattan, a Cabrini statue was displayed on the Brooklyn Diocese’s float. Statue supporters marched behind a diocesan banner in the parade.
Born in Italy, Mother Cabrini was the foundress of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart. Her dream was to go to China but at the insistence of Pope Leo XIII, who asked her to work among Italian immigrants in the United States, she left Italy for New York in 1889, accompanied by six sisters.
She established orphanages, schools and Columbus Hospital, and held adult classes in Christian doctrine. She received requests to open schools all over the world. She traveled to Europe, Central and South America and throughout the United States.
She made 23 trans-Atlantic crossings and established 67 houses with more than 1,500 sisters.
She became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1909. She died in Chicago in 1917 at age 67.
She was beatified in 1938 by Pope Pius XI and canonized in 1946 by Pope Pius XII. She was the first American to be canonized. She was named patroness of immigrants in 1950.