A statue to the Italian saint Mother Cabrini was unveiled on Monday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, marking a day of celebrating Italian heritage in New York City.
Cuomo's dedication of the statue was a year in the making after an outcry from Italian-American community leaders that a city-backed commission had snubbed the 20th century saint who had dedicated her life to aiding impoverished immigrants.
The statue's dedication also came on Columbus Day, which Cuomo has said is a day to celebrate the contributions of people of Italian heritage in the United States, but also has also come under criticism for its historical oppression of native peoples.
Celebrating Mother Cabrini's life on Columbus Day cast a spotlight on a theme Cuomo has focused on over the years: The contribution of immigrants to New York.
"I would submit to you today that the Lord works in strange ways, and this Columbus Day, the celebration of Mother Cabrini is even more appropriate than when we announced it last year," Cuomo said at a dedication ceremony in New York City.
"Today the lesson of Mother Cabrini is even more vital because of the difficulties that we are facing. We all know that these are challenging times, but we also know that in the book of life, it is not what one does when the sun is shining that tests our metal - it's what one does in the fury of the storm. And that's where we are today. The pressure, the stress, the difficulty revealed a true character of people and of society. We see it today."
And Cuomo pointed to the discriminaton leveled against Italians in the United States.
"Mother Cabrini was sent here by Pope Leo the XIII to help deal with the 'Italian problem,' as he called it," Cuomo said.
"The Italian problem was rampant discrimination against the Italian. In 1891, in New Orleans, 11 Italians were lynched after they were found innocent at trial. The day after the New Orleans trial, the New York Times wrote and I quote, 'These sneaking and cowardly Sicilians, the descendants of bandits and assassins, who have transported to this country the lawless passions, are to us as a pest without mitigation.'"
It was in this atmosphere when Mother Cabrini, at 38, was sent to New York.
"And she was sent here with just six other missionaries and she was frail, but despite it all, Mother Cabrini challenged the norms, she broke the norm and she achieved great things," Cuomo said. "She overcame. Mother Cabrini said and I quote, 'The world is poisoned with erroneous theories and needs to be taught sane doctrines. But it is difficult to strengthen what has become crooked.' So true."