More than 1,000 parishioners packed a Brooklyn church on Sunday to give Saint Frances Cabrini her dues — after the city passed her over for a statue, despite a groundswell of support.
The overflow crowd at Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary & St. Stephen church was the latest outcry from Catholics and Big Apple Italian-Americans after Cabrini was snubbed by First Lady Chirlane McCray’s “She Built NYC” statue program.
Cabrini, an Italian immigrant who founded 67 institutions to help the needy, finished first in a citywide poll asking who should get an effigy — but McCray and former Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen nonetheless decided not to grant her the honor.
“That’s a disgrace,” said Connie Gessler, who said Cabrini taught her grandmother. “Why did they have an election if they weren’t going to give one to the person with the most votes? How would she like it if we didn’t make her husband mayor if he got the most votes.”
The mass came after hundreds of Cabrini supporters gathered at Mother Cabrini Park on President Street and to the church.
They carried an Italian flag and banners with the names of their Catholic parishes while singing “Ave Maria.”
“We are against the decision of the mayor and his wife to promote another person for the statue after Mother Cabrini was elected by the people of New York,” said Deacon Carlos Martinez of All Saints Parish in Brooklyn. “They are pushing down the Italian Catholic community to lift someone else up.”
Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, who presided over the mass, never mentioned McCray by name, but he didn’t have to — boos rose up whenever the city’s snub of Cabrini was mentioned.
“More than 50 years ago I fell in love with a woman. Her name was Frances Xavier Cabrini, ” DiMarzio said. “She probably said, ‘I don’t need a statue. I’m a saint in heaven.’ But we need a statue to recognize what she did here.”
DiMarzio said the Brooklyn church would raise funds to erect its own statue to honor Cabrini — and even got $8,000 in donations from parishioners after Sunday’s mass.