Fr. Brendan Fitzgerald said the Mass in Irish. Photo by Nuala Purcell.
By Irish Echo Staff
It was “Gaelic Mass Day” for both the Bronx and Westchester County.
Leading Hibernians wearing sashes and medallions joined with Irish community groups, Irish speakers and parishioners, to hear Mass said in Irish by Fr. Brendan Fitzgerald at St. Barnabas on Saturday, September 7.
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This year’s ceremony included a special musical program provided by the Dawn Doherty School of Music and Aisling Irish Ceili band, followed by the installation of Bronx County AOH officers and presentations of awards to major contributors to Hibernian Christmas Appeal donors.
The Gaelic Mass, dedicated to those who kept the Irish language and culture alive, was symbolized by a mural of a Mass Rock, where Gaelic speakers gathered in secret to hear outlawed Masses, said by outlawed priests during the Penal Law days in Ireland.
With St. Barnabas parish bordering both Bronx and Westchester, the day began with proclamations from Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, and Westchester County, sponsored by County Legislator David Tubiolo.
The Bronx Borough President said he spoke for more than 1.4 million people in commending the AOH “for their efforts to support and preserve their language and culture through this important celebration.”
County Legislator Tubiolo announced that “Irish Language Day” had been declared in Westchester.
Bagpipers Dermot Moore and P.J. O’Hara led in a crowd of prominent Hibernians including National Director Dan Dennehy, past AOH AND LAOH national presidents Brendan Moore and Mary Hogan, New York State Treasurer Tom Beirne, and Past New York State President Vic Vogel.
Readings in Irish were delivered by Irish Deputy Consul in New York, Sean OhAodha and Mairead Greenan of the Emerald Isle Immigration Center. Irish to English translations of the liturgy were provided by Ray Leyden of host AOH Division 5.
In his sermon, Fr. Fitzgerald talked about the deep meaning represented by the Mass Rocks in Ireland “where Irish people had to gather in secret at hidden places just to hear Mass.”
He described going to a Mass Rock deep in the woods of Killarney and how “the Catholic faith in Ireland, like the Irish language, had survived centuries of persecution and penal laws intended to wipe it out, because our ancestors had defied everything, even attending outlawed Masses said by outlawed priests to keep their language and faith alive.”
Musicians and singers included Lauren Tuffy, Aileen Dorrian, Hannah Roughneen, Tadgh O Callaghan, Michael Dorrian and Marina McEntee accompanied by AOH member Jack McCarrick.
AOH National Director Dan Dennehy presided over the formal AOH ceremony installing the incoming officers before a reception. Deputy Consul General OhAodha congratulated the Woodlawn community for its strong connections to Ireland and the AOH and LAOH for work on issues like immigration and freedom for all Ireland.
Special awards honoring major contributors to the Freedom for all Ireland Christmas Appeal were unveiled and given to Jeff Nisler and Christopher Thompson of the Rockland County Board and Rockland County Division 3.
Former LAOH National President Mary Hogan announced moves to reestablish the LAOH in Bronx County.
Officers installed were: President Martin Galvin; Vice-President Bob Nolan; Recording Secretary Jeremiah O’Connell; Financial Secretary Sean McCarthy; Treasurer Bob Cleary; Standing Committee Chair Jim O’Farrell; Marshal Tim O’Donoghue, and Sentinel Jack McCarrick.
Following the Gaelic Mass, Martin Galvin, president of the Bronx County Board said: “We were overwhelmed by the help and encouragement we got for Gaelic Mass Day. The parish, AOH and LAOH statewide, Irish government, local Irish community groups, Irish language clubs and musicians volunteered help.
“The AOH exists to foster Irish traditions, ideals, culture and history. It is hard to imagine a ceremony that could embody everything the AOH stands for better than Gaelic Mass Day,” he said.