By Jessica Easthope
If you ask the Sisters of the Sacred Heart, a big celebration is what Mother Cabrini deserves.
“I was very excited to see the finished product and I think the parish and the Italians in the Brooklyn Diocese will love it,” said Sister Antonina Avitable, a Missionary Sister of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
On Friday, the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a statue of Mother Cabrini was unveiled outside of Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary and St. Stephen’s Parish in Carroll Gardens. The monument reads “A woman who helped build New York City.”
St. Frances Xavier Cabrini was America’s first saint, she came to the country from Italy in 1889 and was an advocate for immigrants.
“To recognize someone who gave so much of herself, gave all of herself for others and did it because of her love for Christ, I hope this monument creates more missionary disciples like she was,” said John Heyer, the lay pastoral associate for the parish.
The monument was a long time in the making. In 2019 the city announced Mother Cabrini would not be honored with a statue despite receiving the most nominations for the She Built NYC campaign – but the Diocese of Brooklyn, a community that knew her well resisted.
“My mother went to Sacred Hearts school when Mother Cabrini was here, she talked about her often, it really seems to connect me to my mother more with all of this going on,” said Sacred Hearts parishioner Ann Troiano.
The statue which took 60 artists and five months to create has hidden symbols – like a piece of luggage to honor her work with immigrants, and a dress worn by one of the children in the statue, the same one she was wearing in the only known picture of her as a child.
“She told her nuns one day, Jesus gave me His heart and I gave him mine so that’s why she had the courage to do so much, basically miraculous things way out of the way for a woman in her day to accomplish,” said Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio.
Mother Cabrini will now watch over the streets of the Diocese of Immigrants, her image sending a message to those who come here for a better life.
“We showed New York and the world that Mother Cabrini’s spirit, love for her people, for her faith, for every immigrant of every color, every creed, every faith is still out here working,” said parishioner Louis Pepe.
Now anyone who passes by the statue will know the woman who helped build New York City did it for Christ.