June 12, 2021
By Erin DeGregorio, The Tablet
CARROLL GARDENS — It was a long time coming for the Diocese of Brooklyn to have its own Mother Cabrini statue, but the faithful finally got to see the final figure.
Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio unveiled and blessed the statue and shrine of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini — also known as Mother Cabrini — outside her Brooklyn parish, Sacred Hearts & St. Stephen Church on June 11.
Members of Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, founded in 1880 by Mother Cabrini, were also in attendance. Once the sisters removed the red fabric from the monument, applause, Italian music, and red, white, and green confetti filled the air.
The statue features Mother Cabrini standing on a cobblestone street with two young children on either side of her. She is depicted at the age she was when she arrived in Brooklyn — approximately 40 years old — and wearing the habit of her order.
The design of the statue includes a variety of historical references, including on the brick base on which the statue will stand. The base also contains the cornerstone of the original church.
Mother Cabrini worked in Brooklyn after she and six other Cabrini Sisters arrived in the U.S. from her native Italy in 1889 and tended to immigrants in the original Carroll Gardens church, which is now the site of Mother Cabrini Park.
“The decision was that the statue should be placed in the parish where she worked here in Brooklyn first,” said John Heyer II, pastoral associate at Sacred Hearts & St. Stephen Parish. “She founded the first school for Italian immigrants here on all of Long Island, quite frankly, and the first for the Diocese of Brooklyn.”
Sister Antonina Avitabile, MSC was a member of the committee that helped bring the diocese’s statue to fruition.
“I think the parish and the Italians in the Brooklyn diocese will love it,” she said before the unveiling. “We put a lot of work into choosing it.”
Msgr. Guy Massie, pastor of Sacred Hearts & St. Stephen, noted the important messages the monument sends.
“It makes a statement to all immigrants that the church is with them and for them, particularly at this time in the history of the United States where there are such anti-immigrant feelings,” he explained. “And it is a great statement of the devotion that people have to Frances Cabrini, who lived right here in our parish.”
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