BATTERY PARK CITY — The New York State-funded Mother Cabrini statue, commemorated in St. Frances Xavier Cabrini’s honor, will be unveiled in Battery Park on Oct. 12. This comes after last year’s snub by the She Built NYC campaign, an initiative created by New York City first lady Chirlane McCray to get more statues honoring historical women throughout the five boroughs. Although Mother Cabrini garnered the most votes in a public poll, she was not chosen to have a monument built in her name.
In response to complaints made by Catholics and members of the Italian-American community, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced last Columbus Day that the State would allocate up to $750,000 for a statue. He also formed a commission that worked together for nearly a year in selecting a design and finding an appropriate location for the statue. Fast forward one year and it has finally become a reality.
“This year we unveil a magnificent monument to our Italian American legacy and that monument will stand for all time,” Cuomo said in a video address during the Columbus Citizens Foundation’s virtual gala on Oct. 10.
The statue, which will depict a young Mother Cabrini in a boat facing Ellis Island, has been called “a unique work of art” by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, the commission’s co-chair. “She was a woman of vision, a woman of courage,” he told The Tablet.
Mother Cabrini, who was canonized in 1946, is recognized as the patron saint of immigrants. She worked in Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, after arriving in the United States from her native Italy in 1889, and tended to immigrants in a church located at the site of what is now a park in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. Mother Cabrini also built 67 schools, hospitals, and orphanages across the country and around the world during her lifetime.
John Heyer, the lay coordinator of the Italian Apostolate for the Diocese of Brooklyn and a commission member, said local Catholics appreciated Cuomo stepping in. Heyer is also currently leading an effort to have a Mother Cabrini statue built in Brooklyn.
Cuomo has resisted calls to remove the statue of Christopher Columbus, at Columbus Circle, near Central Park over the explorer’s treatment of indigenous people. During the same video broadcast on Oct. 10, he said Italian Americans will now have “two great statues in New York City — the Christopher Columbus statue and the Mother Cabrini statue.”
This story will be updated.