By: Basil M. Russo, ISDA President
There are 150 statues in New York City, and only five of them 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.
However, in a move that is both anti-Italian and anti-Catholic, She Built NYC decided against honoring Cabrini and removed her from the running.
It was a bewildering and inept decision that has roiled the city’s 700,000-strong Italian American community, and its 2.3 million Catholics.
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
Mother Cabrini 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.
Those who support She Built NYC’s position will argue that Mother Cabrini already has a shrine in Upper Manhattan, and that her image can be found on the bronze doors of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Midtown. But, Mother Cabrini is the very embodiment of a city that was built, brick by brick, by the very immigrants she nourished, raised and mentored.
She once wrote:
“Let us be generous, remembering always that the salvation of many souls is entrusted to our charity. We can do nothing of ourselves, for we are poor and miserable, but if we have faith and trust in Him who comforts us, then we can do all things.”
Her words are just as relevant now as they were then, and in today’s ever-divisive world, a statue of Mother Cabrini would act as a unifying symbol and a reminder of what it is to be an exceptional human being.
ISDA won’t stop its protest until she gets the honor she deserves.