New York City has a lot of memorials and statues scattered all over the city, so many that it would take a long time to find and visit them all. Some are new but many have been long forgotten hidden away in deep corners of the city. Recently and under the radar to many, a new memorial was added to the list. On October 12, 2020 in Battery Park City Esplanade, a memorial to Mother Cabrini was shown to the world. Now if you are asking who this woman is, just like I did, then let me tell you all about the amazing Mother Cabrini.
Now I didn’t see anything in the news, there wasn’t any major fanfare or even ripples on social media. I discovered this memorial simply by walking by it on a cold October day. I was on my way to Governors Island for some fun times and decided to talk a walk along Battery Park when I bumped into the memorial. I snapped a few pictures and was on my way. A few weeks passed when I looked back on that day and found the pictures I had taken decided to look at who this Mother Cabrini was. Well, let me tell you, was I surprised at what I found. Maybe some of you are shaking your head for not know who she was but all I can say is that I am glad that now I know.
So let’s jump into the story, shall we? Her name was Maria Francesca Cabrini and she was born on July 15, 1850 in Lombardy, Italy. She was a Roman Catholic nun who founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She was the first canonized U.S. citizen as a saint in 1946. Her feast day is November 13 in the U.S. and December 22 in the rest of the world. She is the saint of immigrants and unofficially the saint of parking spots.
She founded her order in 1880 and in 1887 she sought the approval of the pope to start a missionary in china. However the pope asked her not to go east but to go west to America to help Italian immigrants. She arrived in New York City on Martch 31, 1889 to start her mission. She established schools, orphanages and hospitals throughout the city. Her impact was felt not only in New York but in cities like Chicago, Seattle, Los Angles, Denver and throughout Latin America. You can find shrines to her throughout the world from Chicago, London and of course Italy.
So how did she become a saint? In 1933 her body was exhumed and divided up all around the world. I have no idea why this is done but it is a part of process towards sainthood. Her head went to Rome, her heart went to Cologne and her arm bone went to Chicago. The rest if her is still in New York. Her miracle was that she restored the sight of a day old baby who was blinded when silver nitrate was put in the eyes by mistake. The baby Peter Smith, would live until 2002 and would be priest himself. When she was canonized more then 120,000 filled Soldier Field in Chicago for a mass in her name.
She passed away at the age of 67 on December 22, 1917 of malaria in Chicago. She was laid to rest at Saint Cabrini Home in West Park, New York.
Her memorial looks out towards Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty to remind us that this is a country of Immigrants. It takes a special dedication to help others and for that Mother Cabrini is fondly remembered. In Colorado, started this year, 2020 Columbus Day was remained Cabrini Day.