For three years, the sisters at St. Frances Cabrini Shrine NYC gave a home to their Jewish neighbors who had lost their place of worship. The young congregation from Fort Tryon Jewish Center would gather each week in Mother Cabrini High School to pray and sing while their children would play and learn in one of the classrooms. Over the years, smiles and greetings would be exchanged with shrine visitors as they crossed paths to pray.
On Monday, April 11, Fort Tryon Jewish Center honored the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart at a springtime gala to thank them for their hospitality. Rabbi Guy Austrian recalled first meeting Sr. Tommasina Lanski, MSC, who was then Shrine Director. “It was Purim, and I was dressed in a silly costume to entertain the children, when I ran into Sister Tommasina. It was an embarrassing first impression. Sister told me not to worry; “Sometimes people laugh at the way I dress, too!”
Rabbi Austrian presented the Shrine with a beautiful framed papercut image of the Hamsa, or Hand of God symbol. The artwork was created by a member of their congregation, and depicts a symbol of protection common to both Judaism and Christianity.
Gazing at the assembled guests, Sr. Tommasina said, “How did we get to this place, where a Jewish community and Catholic community gather in gratitude? This was a gift from God that united the two out of a respect for faith. As we got to know each other we had a greater respect for each other’s faith and greater love for our own. We share a love for and gratitude to the same God.”
On the Shrine grounds last September, families from the Jewish Center gathered to begin their celebration of Sukkot in the shadow of trees planted when Mother Cabrini was alive. Laughing children dashed beneath a full moon as their parents watched from the Sukkoh hut that was decorated with symbols of the harvest festival. From the darkness a voice began a song in Hebrew and was joined softly by others.