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Queens Chronicle

Flap over Mother Cabrini statue vote

Saint who aided immigrants left off list of women to be honored

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Posted: Thursday, August 29, 2019 10:30 am | Updated: 12:26 pm, Thu Sep 5, 2019.

Don’t mess with Mother.

The decision earlier this month to leave Sister Francesca Xavier Cabrini — known as Mother Cabrini and the first American to be named a saint — from the list of women to be honored with statues in New York has set off a wave of protests.

Cabrini was the top vote-getter in a public poll conducted lasat year by the She Built New York project, headed by city First Lady Chirlane McCray. The project aims to get more statues of women installed around the city.

The final list included jazz singer Billie Holiday, civil-rights activist Elizabeth Jennings Graham, Dr. Helen Rodriguez Trias and LGBTQ advocate Sylvia Rivera — but not Mother Cabrini.

“NYC’s First Lady Snubs Mother Cabrini” read the headline in The Tablet, the Brooklyn Diocese official newspaper.

State Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) fired off a letter to McCray asking for an explanation of the selection process and urging the project to reconsider its decision to leave her out.

“I am not disputing the women chosen by the panel for this initiative, but I am questioning why ‘She Built NYC’ would hold a public poll and then decide to ignore the voice of the people by not including the woman who finished with the most votes by a large margin,” he said in a prepared statement.

Born in Italy, Mother Cabrini came to the United States in 1889 with express orders from the pope to aid the flood of Italian immigrants who were beginning to pour in.

Before her death in 1917, she opened 67 social service agencies in New York, Chicago, Seattle and elsewhere around America and South America.

She was named the first American saint in 1946.

The issue of whether Cabrini was left out because she was Italian and Catholic bubbled under the surface of the debate.

“I understand the desire to recognize groups that have been unrecognized,” said Dr. Joseph Scelsa, former head of the John D. Calandra Italian American Institute at Queens College.

“But there are something like 800,000 Italians living in New York City. To deny them, it’s wrong.”

A columnist in Catholic New York, the Manhattan diocese weekly, hinted the decision was discriminatory.

“The impression is that some votes, and perhaps some constituencies, don’t count, either,” it said.

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1 comment:

  • JSOSIA posted at 5:08 pm on Fri, Aug 30, 2019.

    JSOSIA Posts: 1

    This issue is not about Mother Cabrini but rather the She Built NYC effort. Mother Cabrini fits the title of the survey so well and that is why she ranked #1 of all listed. How could she be overlooked! She was, perhaps, the first Social Worker we all might know! A citywide Statue should be set for her for all as she was a role model for all, not only because she was a religious but a woman of stature and a person who pressed for immigrants and not only Italian Americans at the time. She IS a role model for all who sustain the principle of immigration. Many many Italian Americans in the community will echo my thoughts for Mother Cabrini belonged and now belongs as never before, regardless of ethnicity and race or creed. Our Mayor his Commission and the Chair of the recommending committee are clueless on this issue, and I as with many others will not let them off the hook for this blatant omission!