What to Know
- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo marked Columbus Day by unveiling a statue of the Italian-American saint known as Mother Cabrini in lower Manhattan.
- The dedication of the statue on Monday comes a year after Cuomo announced that the state would commission a monument to the Roman Catholic nun who was canonized in 1946.
- Cuomo attended the unveiling at a spot by the Hudson River with a view of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo marked Columbus Day by unveiling a statue of the Italian-American saint known as Mother Cabrini in lower Manhattan.
The dedication of the statue on Monday comes a year after Cuomo announced that the state would commission a monument to the Roman Catholic nun who was canonized in 1946. That decision came after a commission led by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, omitted Mother Cabrini from a list of women who would be honored with statues, angering some Catholics.
“This year we unveil a magnificent monument to our Italian American legacy and that monument will stand for all time,” Cuomo told the Columbus Citizens Foundation in a video address Saturday.
Cuomo attended the unveiling at a spot by the Hudson River with a view of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, as well as a "view of Mother Cabrini's home borough of Brooklyn," saying that the sculptors did a "wonderful" job.
"Today the lesson of Mother Cabrini is even more vital because of the difficulties we are facing," Cuomo said at the unveiling. "We all know these are challenging times, but as we also know in the book of life it is not what one does when the sun is shining that tests...but it is what one does in the fury of the storm."
St. Frances Xavier Cabrini was born in 1850 in what is now the Lombardy region of Italy. She immigrated to the United States in 1889 and went on to found more than 60 schools, hospitals and orphanages. She died in 1917.
"Mother Cabrini only had two assets, but they were powerful assets," Cuomo said. "She had her culture and she had her faith."
Cuomo referenced Cabrini's hard work and service to others at a time when there was rampant discrimination against Italians throughout the country.
"In this complex world, may this statue serve to remind us of the principals that made us great as a country and as a people and the principals that keep us special on this globe: the values of Mother Cabrini, compassion, acceptance, community, freedom, faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these is love," Cuomo said Monday.
The sculpture depicts Cabrini with two children -- a boy and girl -- sailing on a paper boat. The girl is a reflection of Cabrini when she was young. She is holding a book in one hand, which symbolizes her commitment to education, while her other hand holds firmly onto the boat, signifying her steadfastness in the face of adversities. The boy depicted holds onto his luggage to face what the future will bring and holds on the other hand a wind instrument invented in Italy, which represents the culture immigrants have brought to America.
"Our goal was to create a statue that would represent the perseverance spirit of an extraordinary woman in realizing her childhood dream, the dream of helping people in need around the world," said artist Jill Biagi, who alongside Giancarlo Biagi, sculpted the newly unveiled statue.
Cuomo said Saturday that Italian Americans will now have “two great statues in New York City — the Christopher Columbus statue and the Mother Cabrini statue.” Cuomo called Mother Cabrini “the personification of the Italian American legacy.”
Cuomo has resisted calls to remove the statue of Columbus near Central Park over the explorer's treatment of Indigenous people.
The statue of Columbus, cordoned off by police barriers, was the subject of protests Sunday. A group of several dozen smeared red paint in a crosswalk adjacent to the statue and drew body outlines in chalk.
Cuomo and de Blasio, both Democrats, would normally spend Columbus Day marching in the city's Columbus Day Parade, but this year's parade has been canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.