CARROLL GARDENS — A few hundred Catholics — many using canes or walkers — meandered through the streets Sunday, Oct. 3, in a procession to show their devotion to the patron saint of immigrants, Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini.
The Italian Apostolate of the Diocese of Brooklyn sponsored the procession, as well as the Mass that followed at Sacred Hearts & St. Stephen Parish, Carroll Gardens. The diocese installed its Mother Cabrini monument there in June.
Msgr. David Cassato, leader of the Italian Apostolate, proudly told the filled-to-capacity church that the group had raised $50,000 for the monument.
The statue’s unveiling was the culmination of contention that started in 2018 between the diocese and the city of New York’s “She Built NYC” public-arts campaign. The program establishes monuments to pay tribute to women for their contributions to New York City. Mother Cabrini got the most nominations, but she was not selected for that honor.
A separate Mother Cabrini statue was installed last year in Battery Park City in lower Manhattan. But, undeterred, the diocese erected its own monument for Mother Cabrini — the first U.S. citizen to become a saint, having been naturalized in 1909.
“We won!” Msgr. Cassato exclaimed. “Most of the time we don’t win, and society today tries to hold us out. But that beautiful statue in Battery Park City is magnificent, and the statue out here is magnificent. We made history!”
The procession began at Mother Cabrini Park, 41 President St., the site of the Catholic church in Carroll Gardens where she first served. Over time, she advanced dozens of efforts to help immigrants settle in the U.S.
The marchers, led by the New York City Police Department band, crossed the footbridge over the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway to Sacred Hearts & St. Stephen Parish. This church’s history is linked to the original Mother Cabrini parish, where she also established a school for Italian children.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio celebrated the Mass in fluent Italian. Many parishioners carried Italian flags during the procession, but the event also drew Spanish speakers and people of African ancestries — all with a common affection for Mother Cabrini, her love of immigrants, and her own devotion to the sacred heart of Jesus.
“I am Spanish, but my Italian friends invited me,” said Juana Lunez, who is from the Dominican Republic. She is now a member of St. Finbar’s Parish in Bensonhurst.
Deacon Giovanni Messina, St. Francis of Assisi, Astoria, said the patronage of Mother Cabrini is timeless, especially now as displaced people traverse the globe, searching for homes; a recent example is the surge of Haitian migrants entering the U.S.
“They’re immigrants just like my parents were,” Deacon Messina said. “The challenges are the same, but because of Mother Cabrini’s work, [now] there’s a game plan.”