BY ARMANDO MACHADO, Catholic New York
At St. Frances Cabrini Shrine in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, July 13 was a day for two Masses in two languages, with one message: the Church in New York reaffirmed its commitment to immigrant rights and demanded “fair and just” treatment of immigrants on a weekend of federal arrests of undocumented immigrants in New York and other cities across the United States.
“With the difficulties and the tensions and the challenges that we’re facing, this would be a good time to thank God for her (Mother Cabrini’s) example, and to seek her intercession for justice and charity,” said Cardinal Dolan, the principal celebrant, in his homily during a noon Mass celebrating the 169th anniversary of Mother Cabrini’s birth on July 15, 1850. She is the patron saint of immigrants.
“Mother Cabrini took literally God’s Holy Word…She realized fully that Abraham was an immigrant, Abraham was a refugee,” the cardinal said. “Mother also took to heart the great commandment of Jesus, love of God and love of neighbor, and the parable of the Good Samaritan…We keep the spirit of Mother Cabrini alive.”
“Happy 169th, Mother Cabrini. That’s pretty old; but in this city and this archdiocese, you are ever young.”
The cardinal noted Mother Cabrini’s tireless devotion to the many people coming to New York from Italy, her native land. “Today, she would be there in the front lines (for all immigrants); her work still goes on through the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus,” he said.
The cardinal reiterated his grave concerns over federal immigration raids in a short news conference after Mass, at one point with visible anger and sorrow.
“People who are trying to obey the law, and trying to get their documents in order, are so afraid and so confused that they don’t know what to do, and this isn’t right, this isn’t good,” he told reporters, citing fluctuating immigration laws and policies.
“We all know that hundreds of thousands of immigrants are living a moment of terror and anguish and fear,” said Father Ambiorix Rodriguez, pastor of St. Elizabeth parish in Washington Heights, in his homily during a 2 p.m. Spanish Mass which he celebrated. That Mass also honored Mother Cabrini.
“That is why today we are in solidarity, in action and in prayer, for each one of them…And we ask that the repression stops, the repression of our undocumented brothers and sisters. Every person has dignity, a dignity that is inviolable and given by God.”
After the Spanish Mass, Father Rodriguez participated in a Neighborhood Procession for Immigrant Rights; the procession route included Cabrini Boulevard. Father Rodriguez was a concelebrant in the earlier Mass.
Cardinal Dolan, at the news conference, told reporters, “Our (immigrant) brothers and sisters—they are scared, really scared.” He noted that one parish priest in the archdiocese told him last week that his parishioners were concerned about leaving home and attending Mass because of the planned federal raids.
“That’s how scared some people are,” the cardinal said. “And I’m just hoping that this Mass and the presence of the Church, and the assurances that I’m giving now, will let them know that they’re not alone. Jesus is with them, and the Church with them…We’re hiking up our efforts.”
With the cardinal was Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, executive director of archdiocesan Catholic Charities, who was one of the Mass concelebrants with Auxiliary Bishop Gerald Walsh.
“We know that so many of our neighbors are frightened and they feel threatened,” Msgr. Sullivan told the journalists. “And so we have our counselors, our attorneys who are available this entire weekend at both the New York State New American Hotline and the New York City Action Hotline, so people can call and they’ll get good, accurate, prompt information about how to respond to any threats that they may fear…We believe in abiding by the law, but we don’t believe in abusing the law.
“So we want people to exercise their rights…They do not have to respond unless (agents) have the proper documents,” Msgr. Sullivan said. Extra people were manning the hotlines last weekend, he noted.
Sister Catherine Garry, M.S.C., from the Lower Manhattan convent of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which was founded by Mother Cabrini, spoke toward the end of the English-language Mass. She expressed gratitude to all who support her congregation’s mission in advocating for immigrants.
Sister Yolanda Flores, M.S.C, who is from the same convent, spoke at the end of the Spanish Mass, thanking all who work to assure immigrants know their rights and can rely on the Church for help.
In interviews with Catholic New York after the Spanish Mass, several attendees spoke of their thankfulness for the Mass celebrations and the procession, and for the Church’s advocacy for immigrants through Catholic Charities, Cabrini Immigrant Services and other Church organizations.
Among them was Maria Caguana, 35, a parishioner of Immaculate Conception in Astoria, Queens. She is from Ecuador and is in the process of obtaining U.S. permanent resident status.
“It was beautiful,” she told CNY of the Spanish Mass and homily. “I am here to pray, to pray for my family, to our Lord and Our Mother.”
Manuel Dutan, a parishioner of Our Lady of Lourdes in Queens, and Ruth Ovalle, a parishioner of St. John-Visitation parish in the Bronx, both said they are immigrants who have documented status in the United States. Dutan is originally from Ecuador and Ms. Ovalle from the Dominican Republic. In separate interviews, they said they attended the Cabrini Mass as a strong show of support for immigrants seeking such status.
“I am here for the Mass, for Mother Cabrini and the procession on this beautiful day,” Ms. Ovalle said. “I am here to demonstrate my support for all immigrants, and to pray that the Lord opens doors for them.”
New York State New American Hotline: 1(800) 566-7636, and New York City Action Hotline, 1 (800) 354-0365.
St. Frances Cabrini Shrine in New York City rang with the voices of friends, volunteers and Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus who gathered to celebrate the end of Mother Cabrini’s Centennial year. On December 16, sisters from Cabrini missions in Argentina, Central America, Australia, and all over the Eastern United States gathered in Cabrini Shrine Chapel, greeting each other with open arms, wide smiles and many stories of their ministry around the world.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan officiated at the Mass in both English and Spanish. During the Mass, Cardinal Dolan said of Mother Cabrini, “We love her. We need her. We thank God for her… She herself became an immigrant, in search of the immigrant.”
The centennial theme song from Argentina, “¡Y Emprendemos un Viaje!” and the Cabrini Shrine song, “Go Where I Send You” were loudly sung by the happy congregation.
The immigrant community that joined with the sisters for the mass was encouraged and uplifted by their continued commitment to the work that Mother Cabrini began among us so long ago.
It was a glorious day.
Here is a link to the story in Catholic New York:
Photo credit: Anthony Jalondi
This year marks the Landmarks Conservancy’s seventh annual Sacred Sites Open House on May 20th and 21st.
This year’s theme, Stained Glass: Windows on this World and the Next focuses on the significance and conservation of stained glass and windows in religious sites and highlights work of American stained glass masters including John LaFarge, Henry Sharp, and Louis Comfort Tiffany as well as prominent European artists and studios including Henry Holiday and Mayer of Munich among others.
Over 130 churches, synagogues, and meetinghouses throughout the city and state will be open for you to explore their wonderful religious architecture.
The St. Frances X. Cabrini Shrine will be open both Saturday and Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., with a gift shop and both guided and self-guided tours.
Stained glass in the chapel depicts the life of Jesus and a 3-story image of Mother Cabrini. They have painted realistic detail and dynamic shape. They were designed by Fabian Zaccone in New York and fabricated by G. Pollini in Florence, Italy, installed in 1959.
The pictorial mosaic that surrounds the altar, depicting Mother Cabrini’s life and work, is outstanding in its artisanship and message. This mosaic, recently restored by Stephen Miotto of Miotto Mosaic Art Studios, is priceless and irreplaceable. It is 123 feet long and 24 feet high, and is a unique undertaking for its time, or any time. It is an architectural and spiritual treasure.
The Shrine of St. Frances Xavier Cabrini was designed by architects De Sina & Pellegrino. Frances Xavier Cabrini, the first American citizen to be made a saint, was the founder of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, was sent to New York in 1880 to assist Italian immigrants. She established schools, hospitals, and orphanages around the country. With a commitment to immigrants of all kinds, her ministry extended across the country and into South America. Mother Cabrini died in Chicago in 1917. Her remains were returned to Washington Heights, site of the Mother Cabrini High School, and enshrined. She was canonized in 1946.
Click on the Open House Sites tab to begin planning your trip.
A family perspective… Fr. John Frances Xavier Smith shares the story of his brother’s remarkable entrance into this world.
On Friday, January 13th, Missionary Sisters along with many others, had the opportunity to join Fr. John Frances Xavier Smith at the St. Frances X. Cabrini Shrine in New York City as he shared the story of the miracle of his brother, Fr. Peter Smith. Fr. Peter Smith’s eye tissue and sight restoration was Mother Cabrini’s first miracle.
Fr. John took us back in time to old New York as he shared the story he had heard from his mother, Margaret Riley Smith. She would retell time and time again the particulars of this miracle that occurred on March14, 1921. He repeated several times how she commented on seeing Peter after his birth and how blue his eyes were. Peter was born healthy and normal but a nurse’s mistake of [administering] the [incorrect dosage of] silver nitrate solution [to baby Peter] ate through his corneas and some of his facial skin.
During Father John’s [presentation] many of the [attendees] were leaning forward in their seats listening to the story that was being retold by this baby’s brother many years later.
Another interesting aspect was how Fr. John paralleled Mother Cabrini’s vulnerability as an infant with that of his own brother.
The group [in attendance] was diverse and all seemed to enjoy being connected to the encounter that was unfolding before them. Father was very generous with his time and he and the audience passed a great deal of time sharing informally during the reception.
Father was accompanied by Fr. Michael McMahon from Colorado Springs and Jo Ann Tedesco-Clayton, a long time friend and videographer.
Missionary Sisters in attendance were Sr. Maria Loretta Caeti, Sr. Dianne McKenna and Sr. Frances Brogan. Sr. Marisel and MSC Candidate Claudia were in attendance from the Formation Community.
The day of the presentation – January 13th – was also the day of the funeral of Sr. Marie Louise DeAntonio, MSC and Sr. Mary Louise Sullivan, MSC, therefore, many of the MSCs were unable to attend Fr. John’s presentation.
What has brought a hundred people from Costa Rica, sixty people from Peru, seventy-five more from nations in West Africa, and five hundred fifty local residents to venture to West 190thStreet?
They have all come to visit a church built in honor of a Catholic Sister from Italy as part of a pilgrimage during the “Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy” or the “Year of Mercy.”
Announced in March 2015 by Pope Francis, the occasion is a period of prayer celebrated by Roman Catholics that began in December 2015 and will last until November 2016.
The focus is on God’s forgiveness and mercy, and Church leaders observe a time of universal pardon and remission of sins.
Devout observers travel to sites around the world to gather, sing, meditate, and pray.
One of those destinations is the unique mid-century modern chapel on Fort Washington Avenue in Washington Heights. The Saint Frances Cabrini Shrine is just outside the entrance of Fort Tryon Park. It is named for the formidable Saint Frances Cabrini, patron saint of immigrants.
She is also commonly referred to as the “Little Sister.”
The shrine is one of only three specially designated pilgrim sites in New York City where the devout may visit to receive special grace and inspiration.
Many arriving pilgrims are drawn by the presence of the Holy Doors, which were blessed last November by Bishop Gerald Walsh, who serves as vicar general of Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York. The visitors pause outside the doors to gather their thoughts.
Some enter the chapel on their knees, some holding hands with loved ones, some singing; but most walk through the doors in mindful quiet.
It was in 1899 the Mother Cabrini discovered the property where the Shrine now stands.
At that time, the neighborhood was a remote northwest edge of New York City. The only buildings in this very rural area of Manhattan were the villas of the wealthy. She purchased the property at 190th Street and Fort Washington Avenue, and opened Sacred Heart Villa to create a “residential school for young ladies.”
The Shrine will be celebrating Mother Cabrini’s birthday on July 23 with a family friendly day of special Masses, food and refreshments, and outdoor activities.