[caption id="attachment_80009" align="aligncenter" width="300"] AOH National President Brendan Moore (left), Rev. Raymond Nobiletto, New York Past State President Jim Burke, and current AOH New York State President Tim McSweeney, stand in front of St. James Church before a plaque commemorating the founding of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America.
Photo courtesy New York State AOH website.[/caption]
By Ray O’Hanlon
Irish Americans are renowned for their interest in their places of origin back in the old country.
For the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America, visiting its own point of origin doesn’t require a journey across the Atlantic to the island of Ireland.
Manhattan Island will suffice.
A few days ago, AOH National President Brendan Moore, New York State President Tim McSweeney, Immediate Past New York State President Jim Burke, and Albany Division 5 Treasurer, Bernie Harney, undertook a tour of St. James Church in Lower Manhattan hosted by Rev. Raymond Nobiletto, Pastor of the Church of the Transfiguration.
The Transfiguration Parish recently acquired the St. James Church building, where the AOH in America was founded in May of 1836.
The Sanctuary of St. James has not hosted a mass in over four years and has fallen into disrepair, said a report on the New York State AOH website. Workers are removing the ceiling of the Sanctuary, as it is in danger of total collapse.
Many other rooms and the basement of the building are in need of restoration.
Fr. Nobiletto’s goal, according to the website report, is to transform the Sanctuary into a multi-use community center and recreation area for the parish school. The basement of the building will become a science lab for the school.
The AOH delegation briefed Fr.Nobiletto on how important a place that St. James holds in the history of the Hibernians.
Now future meetings will be planned with Fr.Nobiletto to discuss the role the AOH can play in preserving what is for the Hibernians a historic and most special place.
And with regard to 1836, the AOH National Website, in a section on the birth of the order, states that “in 1836, according to The Miner’s Journal, a newspaper in Pennsylvania’s Schuykill County anthracite coalfield region, and other newspapers, journals and verified sources of information, we have learned that a contingent of miners from a local group called the Hibernian Benevolent Society traveled to New York’s St Patrick’s Day parade.
“While there they met with a group of New York Activists from the St. Patrick’s Fraternal Society. The subject of the meeting is not recorded, but since nativist activity was becoming a national threat, it is not difficult to imagine the Irish seeking to coalesce several societies into one major defensive organization.
“Thus was born The Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH). In several versions of their own history, written and expanded over its lifetime, reference is made to the founding of its first Division at New York’s St. James Church on May 4, 1836 - less than two months after the historic meeting of the New York and Pennsylvania activists.
“Coincidentally, another Division was formed at the same time in the coal-fields of Pennsylvania. Local tradition notes that one Jeremiah Reilly of Cass Township, Hecksherville, Schuylkill County, PA started the first AOH division there, but no records have been found to authenticate this.”