NEW YORK (CNS) — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced March 25 that one of the three new Staten Island Ferry boats transporting people between Staten Island and lower Manhattan will be named for Catholic Worker Movement co-founder Dorothy Day, whose sainthood cause is being considered by the Vatican.
“Dorothy Day lived a life of tremendous selflessness and service. I can think of no greater way to honor her beloved legacy than by having her name on this new ferry boat connecting Manhattan and Staten Island,” said de Blasio, himself a Catholic.
The new vessel is expected to be ready for service sometime in 2022 — faster, likely, than any Vatican action on her canonization.
“How providential that the ferry from lower Manhattan to Staten Island should be named after a brave, loving woman who cherished both those areas of our city and the people who live there,” said a statement by Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York.
“How appropriate that a ferry transporting people would honor a believing apostle of peace, justice and charity who devoted her life to moving people from war to peace, from emptiness to fullness, from isolation to belonging,” Cardinal Dolan said.
Day’s roots grew deep on Staten Island. As an adult, she was baptized at Our Lady Help of Christians Church in Tottenville in 1927.
Day, who was given the title “Servant of God” when her cause was officially opened in 2000, also began a cooperative farm in Pleasant Plains in 1950, operating it for the needy and Catholic Worker members until 1964, when it was sold. She died in 1980 at age 83 and is buried in Resurrection Cemetery, also in Pleasant Plains.
It was in Manhattan where Day met Peter Maurin and started the Catholic Worker newspaper, which still publishes with its cover price of one cent — the same price now as when it was founded in the depths of the Great Depression — and Mary House, the first Catholic Worker hospitality house, of which there are more than 250 worldwide today.
“Dorothy Day was a modest woman. She didn’t even want to take credit for founding the Catholic Worker, insisting that any plaudits go to her inspiration, the religious thinker Peter Maurin. So I think she would be a bit chagrined at this honor,” said John Loughery, co-author of last year’s “Dorothy Day Dissenting Voice of the American Century.”
“She’d probably want the city, in her name or anyone’s name, to do more to help the homeless who are still with us. Personally, though, I’m fine with anything that increases her name recognition and brings attention to her values,” Loughery said in a March 26 email to Catholic News Service.
“Dorothy Day and what she stood for are simply not very well-known today in comfort-obsessed America. In a country scarred by the ravages of Donald Trump, COVID, and the horror of children taken from their families at our border, anything that moves people to think about, and perhaps restore, our moral compass — even a ferry boat! — is good by me.”
“My grandmother loved Staten Island and treasured her trips on the Staten Island Ferry, the rare time when she could relax and be free of her many responsibilities,” said Kate Hennessy in an interview with silive.com, an online news service for Staten Island.
“While we in her family may find it difficult to line up her selfless work with honors such as this, we nevertheless thank Mayor de Blasio and Staten Islanders for this generous consideration,” said Hennessy, who wrote the 2017 book “Dorothy Day: The World Will Be Saved by Beauty — An Intimate Portrait of My Grandmother.”
The Dorothy Day, which was launched for the first time March 26, is said to be more storm-resilient than the craft it will replace. It will be more capable of operating in a wide range of weather conditions and locations — and can also be used in emergency evacuations.
It was modeled after the John F. Kennedy ferry vessel, which is being decommissioned. The Kennedy has proved popular for its outdoor promenades and extended fore decks.