Faith Heritage Immigration Newark

A Call to Protect our History

“If we don’t tell our story, no one else will.”

This has been my mantra for years. And I have worked hard to tell our story as a community over the years. It is a rich story and it deserves a place of value and appreciation. And there is no greater area in New Jersey that holds as much historical value for us than Newark.

Value, yes. But there hasn’t been any appreciation for a very long time.

From the very beginning, Italian immigrants and their families needed to literally pave their own way in Newark. Many call it “Brick City;” well, our ancestors were the ones that laid those bricks. We were forced to worship in the basements of the churches that were managed by the Irish of the Archdiocese. When Rt. 280 and the Columbus Homes were planned, it was the Old First Ward, the largest Little Italy in the state, that was displaced. When tearing down statues was all the rage in 2020, Mayor Baraka had the Columbus statue removed from Washington Park under the dark of night without any discussion. The same man permanently cancelled the Columbus Day parade and and in 2017 Baraka changed the holiday’s name to Indigenous People’s Day by executive order. The second Columbus statue was removed before the Mayor could make a move to take it down. It is now safely located elsewhere.

However, the bureaucrats in Newark apparently are not done with us. Or so they think. This time their aim is Mother Cabrini.

Yes, I’m serious.

Rumors have been verified that East Ward Council Member, Michael J. Silva and North Ward Council Member, Anibal Ramos, Jr. have been working on a plan to move the Mother Cabrini statue from its current location.

So Where is the Mother Cabrini Statue?

Mother Cabrini Statue in Independence Park
The Mother Cabrini Statue in Cabrini Park. (Credit: Andrea Lyn Cammarato Van Benschoten)

Francesca Saveria Cabrini, known to her followers as Mother Cabrini, founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart. In 1887, Francesca sought the approval of Pope Leo XIII’s to establish missions in China. Instead, he urged her to go to the United States to help the Italian immigrants who were emigrating at a rapid rate, and most were poverty stricken. She and six other sisters of her order arrived in New York City in March of 1889.

Monsignor Ernest D’Aquila of Our Lady of Mount Carmel contacted Francesca and asked her to come to the parish to help educate the children of the newly arrived Italian immigrants. She agreed and in 1899 she started a parochial school in the basement of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Later she moved the school to two adjoining store fronts.

Frances Xavier Cabrini was beatified in November 1938 by Pope Pius XI, and canonized in July 1946 by Pope Pius XII. She is the patron saint of the patron saint of immigrants, recognizing her efforts on their behalf across the Americas. She founded over 65 missionary institutions to serve the sick and poor, long before government agencies provided any type of support. She was also the first U.S. citizen to be canonized a saint by the Catholic Church.

In 1958, a statue of Mother Cabrini was placed at Cabrini Park, outside of Penn Station on the site of the original Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church and her parochial school.

So Now What?

There is very little proof Newark was once home to multiple vibrant Italian communities. My beloved St. Lucy’s, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and the statue of Mother Cabrini. There’s not much more than that.

So without consulting, well, anyone, some learned of a quiet discussion to move the statue of Mother Cabrini to another location in the city. Why? What does that serve? Was this discussed openly at a council meeting? Did either of them actually call someone at Our Lady of Mount Carmel with an “oh by the way…?”

They talk about moving a statue of a saint and historical figure like they are trying to decide where to place a new couch in the living room. The location where Mother Cabrini stands was selected for a specific reason. Do either of them know the history?

I ponder this thought; if there was still a large Italian American voting block in Newark would this even be a point of discussion? Like my family, we weren’t given a choice to leave. We were just callously moved. Much like what they are trying to do with the Mother Cabrini statue.

I urge you to contact East Ward Council Member, Michael J. Silva and North Ward Council Member, Anibal Ramos, Jr. and share your thoughts:

  • Council Member Silva’s Aide: Fernanda Santana, Chief of Staff, [email protected]; No phone number listed for Council Member Silva’s office
  • Council Member Ramos’ Aide: Samuel Gonzalez, Chief of Staff, [email protected]; Office phone: 973-733-5136

It is time we start reminding people we are still a vibrant community that deserves respect.

One thought on “A Call to Protect our History

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *