There are evidently 150 statues in New York City, but only five of them are of women. So Chirlane McCray, Mayor Bill DeBlasio’s wife, set out to increase them by 50 percent. For direction about whom to honor, She Built NYC — the public-arts program dedicated to such projects — ran a poll to see what women people wanted to see honored. Coming in first place among 300 proposed women was Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, with 219 nominations. (Jane Jacobs came in second place with 93 votes.)
But there will be no Cabrini statue, She Built NYC decided.
Meanwhile, Cabrini, Italian immigrant and religious sister, is everything you would ever want in a role model. She was courageous — even fearless. She was a global community organizer. One of the most memorable excerpts from her diary involves her being both deeply saddened and righteously furious when she would encounter priests on the transatlantic journeys she would take with sisters to help the Italian immigrants in the U.S. who would not be prepared to celebrate Mass on the long, somewhat excruciating journey.
So while a She Built NYC board, which includes Mayor DeBlasio’s wife, may see “Catholic nun” and turn away for fear of awkward encounters on the neuralgic issues of the day, they could also find some feminist and anti-clerical common ground. Instead, those who will be honored include an abortion-rights advocate (who mercifully was against forced sterilization) and cofounders of Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries.
Mother Cabrini’s shrine is in upper Manhattan, and the Cloisters museum is right down the block. Her remains are there in wax, built into the altar of the church. She’s an untapped resource for those of us who believe in intercessory prayer. But you don’t have to have religious faith to be grateful she is a part of our history.
Ignoring the Cabrini nominations is such a missed opportunity for New York and the nation. Here’s someone who speaks to the good that is religion truly lived out. She could be a unifying figure. (As Dorothy Day could be, too, who got 61 votes.) But while the New York City government may not want to celebrate the rich history we have in Cabrini, their snub is an opportunity to get to know her better. The rest of us can still choose to take some of her advice and follow her lead in helping one another and sharing the hope that we have in a God who does not leave us alone.
Full story at The National Review.