A vote on Friday ended months of controversy, when Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s panel selected Battery Park as the future home of a statue that will honor Mother Frances Cabrini.
The statue of the patron saint of immigrants will be located directly behind the Museum of Jewish Heritage in the Battery’s South Cove, providing the monument with sweeping views of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, according to The New York Post.
Cuomo also dedicated $750,000 in state aid to fund the project.
“This memorial will honor the legacy of Mother Cabrini — a great New Yorker and Italian-American — and the Commission chose a site that perfectly symbolizes her commitment to helping new Americans settle in the United States,” the governor said in a statement. “…We want this memorial to pay tribute to the charity and goodwill she spread to countless others in her lifetime, and I look forward to seeing the designs that the artists propose to capture that spirit of generosity.”
There are 150 statues in New York City, and only five are of women. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, recently launched an initiative to change that.
To help decide which women should be honored with statues, She Built NYC — a public arts program commissioned to handle such projects — conducted a poll to bring everyday New Yorkers into the selection process. Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini overwhelmingly came in first place with 219 nominations.
Despite the public’s clear-cut choice, a She Built NYC spokesperson said Cabrini was taken out of the running because the saint already had a shrine dedicated to her in Upper Manhattan.
Instead, McCray and her team selected singer Billie Holiday, Rep. Shirley Chisholm, LGBTQ activist Marsha Johnson, educator Elizabeth Jennings Graham, abortion rights activist Helen Rodriguez Trías, transgender advocate Sylvia Rivera and lighthouse keeper Katherine Walker.
The road to sainthood
Mother Cabrini was a true pioneer, who’s good will and compassion still aid and uplift people in New York City and around the globe today.
Consider the following:
- She founded more than 70 schools, hospitals, houses and orphanages dedicated to the sick and poor, and Italian immigrants
- She was the first U.S. citizen to be canonized
- She is the patron saint of immigrants
She arrived in New York City on March 31, 1889, after Pope Leo XIII recruited her to aid the waves of poor and vulnerable immigrants who streamed through Ellis Island. She soon obtained the permission of Archbishop Michael Corrigan to found an orphanage, which is located in West Park, New York today and is known as Saint Cabrini Home.
She organized catechism and education classes for Italian immigrants and provided for the needs of thousands of children. She was as resourceful as she was prayerful, finding people who would donate money, time, labor and support.
Plagued by years of illness, she died at the age of 67 in 1917 in Chicago. By then, she was an icon who defied incalculable odds while pursuing a higher mission.