Mother Cabrini statue dedicated in Battery Park
A statue of Mother Frances Cabrini was finally unveiled Monday in Lower Manhattan by Gov. Andrew Cuomo — ending a year of controversy over the idea of honoring the famed Italian American nun in bronze.
“This Columbus Day the celebration of Mother Cabrini is even more appropriate than when we announced it last year. Today the lesson of Mother Cabrini is even more vital because of the difficulties that we are facing,” Cuomo said at the event in Battery Park City’s South Cove.
Cabrini was snubbed last year by the “She Built NYC” program, which was run by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s wife, first lady Chirlane McCray, to honor prominent, historical female figures.
The public was asked to vote for their favorite women to be honored with a statue. But Cabrini was left off the final list of honorees, even though she got the most support.
Outrage from the Italian American community prompted Cuomo to step in and commit state funds to build a sculpture honoring Cabrini, creating a separate committee comprised of prominent Italian Americans to get the effigy situated.
At Monday’s event, Cuomo talked about the importance of Columbus Day and tied Cabrini’s example of hard work and fortitude to how New Yorkers have handled the COVID-19 pandemic. “We see it today: COVID has stressed each of us and all of us, and it has revealed strengths and weaknesses.
“Under pressure, small cracks explode, but also under pressure, diamonds are formed. Saints are often formed in the crucible of adversity,” Cuomo added.
“Mother Cabrini was tested by seemingly insurmountable challenges. She was trying to help new immigrants who had no skills, no money and who couldn’t even speak the language.”
The Cabrini bust rests atop a marble base showing the famous nun along with two children — a little girl and boy — sailing in a paper boat.
As a child, Cabrini used to make paper boats and send them into the waters around her birthplace in the Italian municipality of Sant’Angelo Lodigiano, calling them her “missionaries,” according to sculptors Jill and Giancarlo Biagi.
The trio represents hope for immigrants and courage in the face of adversity.
“We all come from someplace else. We all do. And we all carry our traditions, our things, our music, our culture, our, our beliefs, new land. The boy is scared because of these uncertainties coming into a new land,” Giancarlo told The Post in an interview following the dedication.
“We are all immigrants in one way or another.”
Actor Chazz Palminteri, who went toe to toe with de Blasio and McCray after City Hall excluded Mother Cabrini from getting a statue, was thrilled with the new artwork.
“I’m glad that Gov. Cuomo stepped in and made it happen. The Mother Cabrini statue is in a great location, overlooking the harbor where the immigrants came in,” Palminteri told The Post.
Palminteri said he wished his childhood pal, Italian American activist Phil Foglia, who died from the coronavirus earlier this year and was named by Cuomo to the Cabrini panel, “was here to see the Cabrini statue.”
“Phil was the driving force in galvanizing support for honoring Mother Cabrini,” he said.
Palminteri, who apologized to de Blasio in a heated radio exchange last year after calling McCray racist for excluding Cabrini from the list of women to be honored, said he has no hard feelings.
“That’s water under the bridge,” the “A Bronx Tale” actor and playwright said.
Cabrini was sent to the United States in 1889 by Pope Leo XIII to serve as a missionary in New York’s burgeoning Italian American communities.
She taught in Manhattan’s St. Joachim’s parish, the Church of Our Lady of Pompeii, and the Transfiguration Catholic Church, The Bronx’s St. Rita of Cascia and the Church of St. Stephen in Brooklyn.
She died on Dec. 22, 1917, at age 67 and was canonized in 1946 — becoming the first American citizen named a saint.
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