Yesterday, a new statue dedicated to Mother Cabrini was unveiled by Governor Andrew Cuomo in New York City’s Battery Park. Located just south of the South Cove on the Battery Park Esplanade, the statue is in honor of Saint Frances Xavier (Mother) Cabrini. Born in Sant’Angelo Lodigiano in modern-day Italy in 1850, Mother Cabrini was the first American citizen to be made a saint by the Roman Catholic Church.

Close up of Mother Cabrini StatuePhoto: Kevin P. Coughlin / Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

Mother Cabrini also established hospitals in New York City (Columbus Hospital and Italian Hospital which merged into Cabrini Hospital), Chicago, and even Seattle. Mother Cabrini died in Chicago on December 22, 1917, ten years after fulfilling her dream of becoming an American citizen. She was interred at her orphanage in West Park, New York.

It did not take long for Mother Cabrini to achieve sainthood. She was beatified on November 13, 1938, by Pope Pius XI, and canonized on July 7, 1946, by Pope Pius XII. Cabrini’s body was exhumed during the canonization process and was relocated to the St. Frances Cabrini Shrine in Northern Manhattan, which you can visit today. The head of Mother Cabrini, who is the patron saint of immigrants, was brought to her congregation’s international motherhouse in Rome. Today, you can visit the De Sina & Pellegrino designed St. Frances Cabrini Shrine, which is located at 701 Fort Washington Avenue, (just off of Cabrini Boulevard, which was named in her honor) and view Mother Cabrini’s body.

St. Frances Cabrini Shrine for Mother Cabrini in Washington Heights

Governor Cuomo announced plans for the creation of a Mother Cabrini statue and memorial on Columbus Day 2019. The announcement came in the wake of controversy surrounding the She Built NYC initiative from Mayor de Blasio and his wife Chirlaine McCray. She Built NYC will add five new statues of women in New York City, including one of Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman to serve in Congress. The five women were selected in part through a public voting process, and although Mother Cabrini won the vote, she was not chosen to be honored. A spokesman for She Built NYC stated at the time that she had not been selected because tributes already existed.

Mother Cabrini Statue in Battery ParkPhoto: Kevin P. Coughlin / Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

The resulting public relations storm was swift amidst the Italian-American community, particularly as Columbus Day was nearing last year. A protest march was organized, attended by around 1,000 people, and the actor Chazz Palminteri said that the snub of Cabrini by McCray was racist on WABC radio: “Absolutely, she is being racist. C’mon. As Italian Americans we have to speak up. If you’re an Italian American and you’re listening to us right now, and if you have any soul in you, you have to do something. Stand up and do something,” he urged. A little over a week later, Governor Cuomo announced his plans.

Governor Cuomo at Mother Cabrini Statue dedicationPhoto: Kevin P. Coughlin / Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

The sculpture was designed and created by the sculptors Jill Burkee-Biagi and Giancarlo Biagi. At yesterday’s event, Cuomo saidThis Columbus Day, the celebration of Mother Cabrini is even more appropriate than when we announced it last year because of the difficulties that we are facing. We all know that these are challenging times, but we also know that in the book of life, it is not what one does when the sun is shining that tests our metal – it’s what one does in the fury of the storm, and that’s where we are today. In this complex world, may this statue serve to remind us of the principles that made us great as a country and as a people and the principles that keep us special on this globe – the values of Mother Cabrini: compassion, acceptance, community, freedom, faith, hope and love.”

Next, check out other statues and memorials that are in Battery Park City and Battery Park, including a Berlin Wall slab, a Korean War memorial, and once, a monument to tourists taken by wolves. This article also written by Michelle Young and Jeff Reuben.