A Statue for Mother Cabrini

The decision of the “She Built NYC” committee not to include Mother Cabrini among the seven women to be honored by New York City caused outrage among the city’s Italian-American community and Catholics in general.

As readers of The Tablet probably know, the “She Built NYC” program asked the public to nominate women to be honored with statues in New York, because only five of the 150 statues in public spaces in the city honor women.

Mother Cabrini received 219 votes — more than double the number of the second-place nominee, and yet the selection committee didn’t choose her.

Our coverage of the issue has resonated among our readers. During the last several weeks, we have received numerous letters expressing dismay or calling for action in response to the Mother Cabrini snub.

The Tablet’s mission is to cover news from a Catholic perspective. The life of the Catholic Church as an institution, as well as the life of the Catholic community at large, is always at the center of our efforts. At the same time, holding elected officials and public figures accountable is a responsibility of the press, whether it is Catholic or not. And the Mother Cabrini exclusion ignoring the results of public vote combines those two missions.

The exclusion of two of the most iconic Catholic women in the history of New York City — St. Frances Xavier Cabrini and Dorothy Day —seems to be the product of an implicit anti-Catholic bias. We will continue to ask questions about the committee’s decision. And we will cover the efforts and initiatives of Italian-Americans and Catholics to rectify that capricious choice.

The Diocese of Brooklyn has already started efforts to erect a statue of Mother Cabrini. In his column this week for The Tablet, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio says:

“Not wishing to enter into the politics of our complicated city, I am beginning our own campaign through our Catholic Foundation for Brooklyn and Queens to have a statue of St. Frances Cabrini erected someplace in Brooklyn; hopefully in front of Borough Hall. We have been in contact with Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, and he agrees that Mother Cabrini is worthy of city recognition with a statue. The statue itself should be built with the voluntary contributions of those who honor the memory and seek the intercession of St. Frances Cabrini; not only as a woman of courage but also as a saint. Should you wish to contribute you may do so at www.cfbq.org/cabrinistatue”

Bishop DiMarzio will also lead a march to honor Mother Cabrini on Sunday, Oct. 6, starting at 3 p.m. at 41 President Street in Brooklyn. At the end of the march, the bishop will celebrate a Mass for the participants at Sacred Hearts – St. Stephen Church in Carroll Gardens. The march will be sponsored by the diocese’s Italian Ministry.

We salute these efforts to honor the Patroness of Immigrants in the Diocese of Immigrants. And we commend Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams for listening to a significant portion of the borough’s electorate.

Now Catholics in Brooklyn and Queens have the possibility of helping honor Mother Cabrini. By doing so, they will continue the efforts of previous generations of Catholics who built the churches and schools in the diocese that we use today. Most of them were recent immigrants who often felt like outsiders. By following their example, today’s Catholics will continue a long tradition of fighting for justice and against prejudice. And The Tablet will be there to report it.

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