When graduates from the Class of 2023 cross the Commencement stage to complete their Cabrini journeys on Sunday, May 21, their Commencement speaker, Lucy Bustamante, will be completing a full-circle Cabrini journey of her own.
Long before Bustamante delivered Philadelphia’s morning news as an Emmy Award-winning news anchor and journalist for NBC10 and Telemundo62, she was a Cabrini High School student in New Orleans who traveled to Radnor, PA, to volunteer with the retired Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (MSCs) at the now-closed Cabrini Convent.
“I kind of had an unconventional Catholic upbringing in the sense that [Mother] Cabrini and nuns in general, were never shown to us as secondary citizens to male priests,” Bustamante said. “The sisters always were so powerful in what they did. We were taught Cabrini was a strong feminist, never waiting for a man to do the work first. She did it herself. She opened these schools and hospitals.”
As the daughter of Cuban refugees who fled Fidel Castro’s regime, Bustamante said she and her family found a home in St. Frances Xavier Cabrini’s story, passion and life’s work as the patron saint of immigrants. Bustamante’s sister who came from Cuba at age 4 was also educated at Cabrini High School in New Orleans.
Bustamante encourages graduates, particularly first- and second-generation Americans, to embrace their cultural identity as an asset as they discover their own vocations.
“I don’t think there’s a better character to be in the American story than a first-generation American,” she said. “It is the front row seat for why this country is so special, at least in its ideals. As graduates, they need to really focus on what they have to offer and realize that the duality of being an American and whatever other culture they came from is a humongous benefit—more now than ever.”
With Telemundo62, the bilingual Bustamante said she gets to work in a bilingual newsroom “formed in the image of how I grew up.” She said she puts great pride and care into delivering news to local communities in both English and Spanish.
Bustamante developed her craft as a broadcast journalist under some of “the first women in broadcast.” Early in her career, she rose to the challenge of covering Hurricane Katrina, which devastated her hometown of New Orleans in 2005.
“I like to think that Katrina is always with me and the lessons from those days are always alive in my mind,” she said. “I still feel very blessed to be trusted with information like this from day to day, even though not every day is going to be as dire and urgent as Katrina.”
Now in Philadelphia, a city Bustamante said is her new home and is “as in love with itself” as New Orleans, she is focused on illuminating the experiences of veteran servicemembers in her work. Bustamante’s husband, whose parents also left Cuba for the United States, served as a Navy SEAL in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The truth of the matter is, it doesn’t matter your race, color, or creed, if you know someone who has served, it’s a very impactful experience that often defines how they see the world,” she said. “I have this incredible career that allows me to amplify people. We have to amplify this population for their service and their diverse experiences.”
At Cabrini’s 63rd Commencement Exercises later this month, Bustamante will amplify messages of inspiration to graduates and their families. She said she hopes to impart a lesson learned from her immigrant parents: visualize yourself living the American dream in the form of a vocation based on your passion.
Perhaps most of all, Bustamante said she wants to show the Cabrini community her gratitude for its role in her career and her family’s path to Philadelphia.
“I’m taking this moment of being able to give back…and really hope the students hear the message – you could be at the start of your own beautiful full-circle moment.”