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New Staten Ireland Ferry to be named for Dorothy Day, Catholic activist who loved the poor

March 26, 2021 | posted by


New Staten Ireland Ferry to be named for Dorothy Day, Catholic activist who loved the poor

One of the newest Staten Island ferry boats in New York harbor will be named for the Catholic journalist, radical social activist, and possible saint, Dorothy Day.

Kate Hennessy, a granddaughter of Day and author of the book “Dorothy Day: The World Will Be Saved by Beauty,” commented on the honors.

“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,” Hennessy said March 25. “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.”

The Dorothy Day is one of three new 4,500-passenger ferry boats under construction by Eastern Shipbuilding in Panama City, Florida. It is expected to arrive in 2022. Its designs will be larger and will have more technologically updated and safer in extreme weather than current ferries. They will continue features like comfortable seating, phone-charging outlets, but the new models also include an upper-deck promenade that serves as an outdoor “walking track.”

Only three Staten Island ferries have now been named for women.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York commented on the honors for Day.

“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,” Dolan said. “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.”

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio praised Day’s “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,” he said. “Day loved Staten Island, and this naming will allow others to learn of her inspiring work as a brave activist and journalist. I thank Day’s surviving family for keeping the memory of her work alive, and hope every New Yorker can draw inspiration from her legacy.”

The New York City Mayor’s Office described Day as a “revered social activist and journalist who spent decades on the Island’s South Shore.” The mayor’s office also cited Pope Francis’ praise for her in his 2015 speech before the U.S. Congress.

“Her social activism, her passion for justice and for the cause of the oppressed, were inspired by the Gospel, her faith, and the example of the saints,” the pope said, according to a Catholic News Agency report.

Day was born in Brooklyn in 1897 and raised in Chicago. She was baptized Episcopalian at the age of 12. She displayed signs at a young age of possessing a deep religious sense, fasting and mortifying her body by sleeping on hardwood floors.

Her life changed in the 1910s in response to the U.S. social climate. A particular influence was Upton Sinclair's “The Jungle,” a scathing depiction of the Chicago meat-packing industry.

Day dropped out of college and moved to New York, where she took a job as a reporter for the country's largest daily socialist paper, The Call. She moved in socialist and bohemian circles, eventually entering a common-law marriage with Forster Batterham, an anarchist lover of nature and a staunch atheist.

Day lived for years on the Lower East Side and Greenwich Village. She moved to Staten Island in the 1920s, where she raised her daughter Tamar. She was increasingly drawn to Catholicism, praying the rosary and having her daughter baptized Catholic. She was received into the Catholic Church in 1927 at Our Lady Help of Christians Church in the Staten Island neighborhood of Tottenville.

After Batterham left Day, she lived in New York City as a single mother. Her deep-rooted and long-standing concern for the poor resurfaced. Along with the eccentric French itinerant philosopher Peter Maurin, she founded the Catholic Worker Movement in 1933. Living the Catholic notion of holy poverty and practicing works of mercy, the two started soup kitchens, self-sustaining farm communities and a daily newspaper. In the course of her 50 years working among the poor and marginalized, Day never took a salary.

In New York City, her work with the Catholic Worker Movement included providing food and shelter during the Great Depression on the Lower East Side. After 1950 she moved back to Staten Island to run a cooperative farm with other members of the movement, including Maurin.

She advocated Catholic devotion and hospitality while also engaged in social action for the poor and for civil rights. Her social criticism often took a radical perspective on poverty, labor, capitalism, and war, while still drawing on Catholic social teaching.

“Day later became best known for her pacifism and work on behalf of the oppressed, including opposition to the Vietnam War and public support of striking farm workers,” the mayor’s office said.

She died in 1990. Her cause for canonization opened in 2000, and she has the title Servant of God. Some 180 Catholic Worker communities continue her work in the U.S. and around the world.

New York City Council Member Joseph Borelli also remarked on her legacy.

“The world knows Dorothy Day as an activist and fighter for justice, but to her South Shore neighbors she met while living on Staten Island, she was the tough-but-kind woman they saw strolling the wooded lanes and shoreline of our community,” he said. “It will be an honor to ride on this boat dedicated to her memory, and even more so when she is declared a Roman Catholic saint.”

The first new ferry scheduled to arrive is named for U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Michael H. Ollis, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2013 at the age of 24 while protecting other soldiers from a suicide bomber attack. He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross.

The other boat is named Sandy Ground, in honor of one of the country’s first Black settlements on Staten Island. It served as a stop for escaped slaves on the Underground Railroad.

The boat named for Dorothy Day and its two sister ships are part of a $300 million investment in the ferry service. The three ferries are the first new boats for the ferry fleet since 2006. They were funded by a combination of federal and city funds and other grants, the New York City Mayor’s Office said.