NEW YORK – Governor Andrew Cuomo announced this week that New York State will join Italian-American groups and the Diocese of Brooklyn in the creation of a statue honoring the life of Mother Frances Cabrini.
“I’m a Roman Catholic, I was an altar boy. I represent them, I stand with them,” Governor Cuomo said at the Columbus Day Parade in New York yesterday. “They don’t have to do it alone, we will do it together.”
The announcement came after months of criticism aimed at New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. He omitted Mother Cabrini from a public arts campaign created to build statues of famous women from the history of New York.
“Mother Cabrini was a great New Yorker, a great Italian-American immigrant,” Governor Cuomo continued. “She came to this city and she helped scores of immigrants who came to New York.”
She Built NYC is a public arts campaign that came about after Mayor de Blasio discovered that only five of New York City’s 150 statues of historic figures depicted women. The campaign aims to rectify the imbalance and ensure that New York’s full story is told. Over $10 million was set aside to fund the project.
She Built NYC released a public poll where people could nominate influential women from New York history. Of the 326 suggestions submitted to the campaign, Mother Cabrini received 219 nominations. This number was almost double the nominations for second-place Jane Jacobs.
But despite overwhelming public support, the organization rejected the idea of honoring the first American saint.
The campaign instead selected the following seven historical figures to honor in the city’s five boroughs:
- Rep. Shirley Chisholm (Brooklyn)
- Billie Holiday (Queens)
- Elizabeth Jennings Graham (Manhattan)
- Dr. Helen Rodriguez Trías (Bronx)
- Katherine Walker (Staten Island)
- Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera (Manhattan)
This list includes founding members of the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (Johnson and Rivera) and the Committee for Abortion Rights and Against Sterilization Abuse (Rodriguez-Trias).
In September, the Brooklyn Diocese announced a campaign to raise money to build the statue. The project was supported by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who agreed to find space for it near borough hall.
Mother Cabrini was an Italian-American Roman Catholic. She founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a religious order that supported Italian immigrants to the United States. The Catholic Church honors Mother Cabrini as the patron saint of immigrants.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio said he spoke with the governor Sunday and was thankful for his support. “We both came to the same thing—it’s not just about Mother Cabrini, it’s about immigrants,” he said outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral during the parade.
“She was a protector of immigrants, and we need the same protections today for today’s immigrants.”