Catholics Honor Mother Cabrini Amid Controversy

Tags: Currents, Brooklyn, NY, Diocese of Brooklyn, Immigrants, Immigration, Italian-Americans, Mother Cabrini, New York City, Saints

By Tim Harfmann

Catholics arrived at Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn by the bus loads, rallying behind Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini amid controversy.

Mother Cabrini was snubbed by the city after she received the most votes in an online poll.

“I think it’s a disgrace that a person so great is not being recognized. She did so much!” said Maria, at parishioner at St. Mel’s Church in Flushing, Queens. She traveled with a group from her parish for the procession and Mass.

Catholics are outraged after the city’s first lady Chirlane McCray ignored the results of her ‘She Built NYC’ campaign, a plan to erect statues honoring exceptional women who built the Big Apple.

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio led about a thousand Catholics during the October 6 procession, and the bishop had a strong message for the city.

“They should reconsider since Mother Cabrini received many votes, more votes than anybody else, and they asked for input. Why ignore it?” he said.

Nearly 350 women were nominated.

Mother Cabrini overwhelming received the top-spot with 219 votes.

“She was a woman of courage and bucked a lot of systems to do what she had to do,” said Bishop DiMarzio. “We think that she certainly deserves to have a statue here. If we’re doing other women, we should have her, too.”

Mother Cabrini is the patroness of immigrants and arrived in New York from Italy in 1889.

She opened schools, a hospital, orphanages, and other social service programs throughout the United States.

In Brooklyn, Mother Cabrini founded the now-shuttered school at Sacred Hearts-Saint Stephen Church, the first Italian-Catholic parish in the diocese.

John Heyer is the archivist there and said the twentieth-century saint made significant contributions across the country.

“She constantly moved. She’s a perfect symbol for the new evangelization for going out, doing things, bringing our faith, bringing Christ and His love out into the public arena and to people who need it. That’s really why we’re here today.”

Catholics processed to the Brooklyn church from nearby Mother Cabrini Park.

“To be able to actually walk in the footsteps where she ministered is really exciting,” said Joanne Fusaro, a parishioner at Saint Frances Cabrini Church in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn.

“We’ve had crowds, but we’ve never had a crowd like this. And it really shows what it means to people, that whole symbolism of Mother Cabrini and the Church,” said Monsignor David Cassato, the coordinator of the Italian Apostolate in the Brooklyn diocese.

Following the procession, Bishop DiMarzio celebrated Mass in Italian and English.

Only five of the current 150 city-erected statues are dedicated to women.

Bishop DiMarzio is spearheading a campaign to put up a statue of Mother Cabrini in Brooklyn