Deputy National Chaplain

Reverend Timothy J Harris, T.O.R.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, and through our fellowship in Saint Patrick, I bid you well. It is an honor and privilege for me to be addressing you as a Deputy National Chaplain for the Ancient Order of Hibernians. At our recent national convention, our worthy president Brendan Moore asked me to assume this office. I first asked him if he was sure, for it had been a long convention and he looked tired, and after he assured me he was, I then humbly accepted.

I have been blessed to be able to serve our Hibernian brothers in the past as, first and foremost, a division chaplain for the Col. Thomas Cunningham Division in Loudoun County, Northern Virginia. I cut my teeth there and learned from my brothers how to be a holy Hibernian. I was then asked to serve on the state level and, for the past several years, have been delighted to serve the great commonwealth of Virginia as her state chaplain.

As I assumed both of these roles, I sought to truly honor the presidents who offered these appointments to me by working my hardest to infuse both my division and state with a lively, engaging Catholic spirit that has always been at the very heart of the AOH since its inception. As an Irish-American and as a priest, my faith is the very foundation upon which I live my life. Thus it was so natural for me to seek admittance to our Order, which not only has embraced its Catholic faith in its heart, but has put it into practice throughout the decades. Our continued commitment to true Christian Charity is a beautiful manifestation of the Love of God. And as a priest, let me just say to our brothers and sisters throughout history who took seriously their commitment to safeguard our faith and our clergy, thus allowing my Celtic vocation to come about, Thank You. I pray that each of us will continue to have the same courage and passion for our Catholic faith that those who laid the foundation of our Order witnessed to through their sacrifices and fraternity.

As I assume this new role that President Moore offered to me, I am once more humbled and honored to serve. I look forward to working with Fr. Tom O’Donnell and Fr. Martin Burnham as your national chaplains as well as with all of our highly regarded national officers.

As our worthy national president stated so eloquently in his article from the last edition of the National Hibernian Digest, I also would like to thank all of our Hibernian sisters and brothers from St Louis for their great efforts to put on a wonderful convention, especially in the face of several big challenges. And I would like to personally thank Fr. James Byrnes from the Fr. Dempsey Division in St Louis for all of his efforts in organizing and providing the “grunt work” behind the scenes for all of the liturgy for the weekend, well done Fr Jim.

For any of our state or division chaplains throughout our viewing area, please do not hesitate to reach out to me if I can be of any assistance to you in your most needed ministry as shepherds to our Hibernian divisions. The presence of a chaplain, even if only occasionally or for part of an event or meeting, is pure gold to our members, and a Catholic resource of great value. May the Lord Give You Peace.


Deputy Chaplain Fr. Tom O’Donnell

For about nine years I have been semi-retired and spend most of the cold months in Ft. Myers, Florida. I am only semi-retired since I still am a Judge for the Marriage Tribunal for the Diocese of Pittsburgh. I had lived in a mobile home in Florida, but had to move since the rent was eating up half of my pension. Therefore, I was fortunate enough to be accepted into Blessed Pope John XXII Vilas which is a low income senior citizen housing apartment built by HUD on the southwest end of the property of Blessed Pope John XXIII Church in Ft. Myers. It seems that the name of our church and apartment building will have to be changed to Saint Pope John XXIII.

The announcement that the beloved John XXIII, who is associated with Vatican Council II, was approved for sainthood came as a surprise as he had not been associated with a second miracle; something that is normally part of the sainthood process. Vatican Radio reported on the explanation given by Vatican spokesman: Fr. Lombardi stated that a canonization without a second miracle is still valid, given that there is already the existing miracle that lead to the Pope John XXIII’s beatification. He also pointed to ongoing discussions among theologians and experts about whether it is necessary to have two distinct miracles for beatification and canonization. Certainly, he added the Pope has the power to dispense, in a Cause, with the second miracle. Reacting to the news, the Jesuit author Father James Martin wrote: “The announcement that will make millions of Catholics happy. I deeply admire John Paul II and John XXIII is my great hero. The Vatican has not announced when the canonization of John Paul II and John XXIII are expected to take place, or whether they will be done jointly, as Vatican Radio Reports: Fr. Lombardi did not rule out that both celebrations could coincide, and he did express his belief that they would take place by the end of the year. The canonizations will most probably take place on December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception since the Pope generally schedules such great events to coincide with a major feast day.

As a young priest I remember how Pope John XXIII said that he was opening up the windows of the Church as he convened Vatican Council II. Now as an older priest I am happy that Saint John XXIII Church and Villas has opened up its doors to me and has helped me to enjoy my retirement years in love, peace and dignity.


Fr. Thomas O’Donnell

Deputy National Chaplain

Deputy Chaplain

Homily delivered at the AOH Pennsylvania State Convention Closing Mass 2013 by Father Tom O’Donnell, AOH Deputy National Chaplain

In today’s Gospel we meet two great friends of Jesus, Martha and Mary.  In this story we see two different definitions of hospitality. For Martha hospitality demands service, while Mary defines hospitality as being present to one another.  Martha is being busy in the kitchen making dinner while Mary is sitting with Jesus listening to his words.  However, it is possible to be like Mary and focus on the Word of God and also like Martha be focused on the task at hand.


The Gospel story of Martha and Mary is similar to the life of St. Francis of Assisi. Francis tells us to preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use actions and words”. Francis proclaimed a message we should all take to heart. It transforms our religious beliefs into a spiritual life of action which demands that we act with a compassionate heart. Compassion brings us in touch with one another and calls us to step out in faith. Compassion takes the knowledge of our faith and enables us to live that faith in service to one another.


As Catholics and as Brothers and Sisters of the Ancient Order of Hibernians our profession of faith calls us to be Followers of Jesus. Whether we do this in the manner of Martha or Mary as followers of Jesus Christ, we are encouraged by God to step out of our comfort zone and to embrace the Christ we are called to see in others. We are called to respect all life. We are challenged to act on our beliefs. That is our mission in life. We need to think less of the “I” and more of the “We”. Much is already going on in our order that exemplifies that direction.   AOH Brothers and Sisters donate thousands of dollars and thousands of hours in works of charity. We must also be involved in the issues of peace and justice. For far too long the British have unjustly occupied the six counties of Northern Ireland and as long as one county, one town, one family one man, woman, or child is not free, all Ireland is in chains. We must continue to fight for “One Nation, One Island, One United Ireland.”


As we all get to know Pope Francis, one of the things that is becoming abundantly clear is that his underlying motivation is to emulate the example and teachings of Jesus: simplicity, justice, humility, compassion and love.   While it is hard to imagine us giving up ALL of our material comforts, we are challenged to follow the example of Pope Francis, who is focusing less on the material goods of his Papacy, but on the opportunity to use his position to encourage us to reach out to those in need.


When Pope Francis was introduced as our new Holy Father on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica, he said: “Let us begin this journey together united as bishop and people. This journey is a journey of fraternity, of charity and love between us. Let us always pray for one another. Let us pray for the world, so that a great fraternity and brotherhood may be created.”   These words of Pope Francis are a clear call to the virtues of Unity, Fraternity and Christian Charity which are the fundamental principles of our Order as Brothers and Sisters of the Ancient Order of Hibernians.


How inspiring for us to have those principles highlighted by Pope Francis call for unity, charity, love, trust and fraternity and how clearly his words highlight the timeless relevance of our Order established one hundred and seventy seven years ago.


Even the new Pope’s choice of the name – Francis – evokes not just St. Francis of Assisi’s charity but also the words our Lord spoke of that humble saint: “Rebuild my Church.”  It is a stirring reminder of the need to continue the work of new evangelization of rebuilding the Church through prayer of Mary and living out our faith through the charity of Martha.


St. Francis’ witness like that of our new Holy Father was a daily witness of love of God and our neighbor. Our principles of Unity, Fraternity and Christian Charity are just words if we do not live them out in our daily life.


Let us pray for our Holy Father as he requested on the evening of his election, and let us work even harder for those who need the most help in our society. Let us invite the men and women of our divisions to become even more active in the service of our neighbors. In short let us take the call of Pope Francis to heart and live our charity to our neighbor in unity with the Church and our Holy Father, and in the spirit of fraternity with one and all.


The story of Martha and Mary and St. Francis of Assisi teach us that in order of focus on our service of one another, we must focus on God. Once we know and love our Savior, then our service for one another rises up from our heart within us. We are all called to serve in Unity, Fraternity and Christian Charity, and we can do this once we have truly met with Jesus and focused on Him.


Deputy Chaplain Fr. Tom O’Donnell

St. Patrick’s Day for my dad, Bartley O’Donnell, was a time for reminiscing. On his last St. Patrick’s Day in 1978, my dad sat in his easy chair, wrapped his green tie around his finger and recalled his youth in County Galway, Ireland. He felt good that day as he did on many St. Patrick’s Days.

But life wasn’t always easy for this genial Irishman. Born on a small farm in Woodstock, Moycullen, County Galway, in 1900, he went into the fields as a youngster to help support his ten brothers and sisters. He reached the sixth grade in school and then quit to devote his full time to working on the farm. My dad quipped: “In those days when you reached the sixth grade, the British thought you had enough education. They didn’t want too many smart Irishmen around. The dumber you were, the better the English liked you.”

My dad got his first real taste of life during the Irish Rebellion in 1916. Dad recalled: “I joined the Irish Republican Army when I was almost 17.  One Saturday night, I came home to see my parents and I was arrested by the British supporters for siding with the rebels. I didn’t have any guns on me, so the charges were light but they put me in the Galway County jail for over seven months.” On the site of the old Galway jail now stands the magnificent St. Nicholas Cathedral for the Galway Diocese.

While in jail, my dad and my Uncle Tom joined several long-termers who were trying to tunnel their way out. Dad took his turn shoveling dirt into small containers and then flushing the dirt down the toilet. Dad recalls that everything was going well until a British soldier fell into the tunnel. Because of his youth, Dad, like a lot of other Irish teenagers, did not know how serious the war was until two members of the Black and Tan took the young parish priest, Father Martin Griffin out one night and shot him and dumped his body in a bog. When members of his parish found Father Griffin’s body, he was taken back to the town of Galway where he received a hero’s funeral.

In 1924 when the troubles were over for a time, Dad decided to come to Pittsburgh where two of his sisters were already living. He arrived in Garfield and was taken in by Mary Mullen, whom we called Aunt Mary, a title of respect for any older cousin. It was at Aunt Mary’s home that Dad met my Mom, Nellie Synan. It might have been just a coincidence or maybe Divine Providence, but Aunt Mary was Aunt Maria Synan’s sister, who was married to Uncle Nick Synan, my Mom’s uncle. A few years later Dad and Mom married at St. Laurence O’Toole Church in Garfield and over the years became the parents of three sons and three daughters. My dad served as the custodian at St. Laurence O’Toole Church and remained there for close to forty years.

As we celebrate another St. Patrick’s Day let us fondly remember our parents and grandparents who made many sacrifices so that we today can enjoy the freedom of our heritage. Let us pray for our ancestors and thank them for the many gifts they have bestowed upon us, especially the gift of our Faith.

Deputy Chaplain

It was Sr. Mary who urged me, as a child, to approach the word before me, by getting to the Latin root of the word; I still find myself looking to the origins of words. Recently, I was occupying myself in this regard and came across the word Motto, which is defined as:  “1) a sentence, phrase, or word inscribed on something as appropriate to or indicative of its character or use; 2) a short expression of a guiding principle.” Of course, there were other definitions, including one about a candy wrapper, but I liked these two, especially the second, a short expression of a guiding principle. The origin of this word rests in 15th Century Italy, possibly earlier, and is from the Late Latin muttum, meaning grunt, derived from the Latin muttire, to mutter. Big difference from grunting something to expressing a guiding principle.

Our own motto, “Friendship, Unity and Christian Charity,” contains so many elements, so many things that can direct our lives and our goals to something higher, something beyond oneself, or one’s own agenda. Friendship alone speaks of stepping beyond oneself, of looking toward another human being, as somebody who is worthy of my time and attention; even children, as they mature, recognize that other people do not exist solely for their pleasure, but a measure of sacrifice is needed in all relationships. Unity, one of those lovely Latin-based words that, at its core, means “One.” (Forgive me for not breaking into a U2 song here, but I was never a big fan.) We talk about “Oneness” all the time, the idea that the United States are One and Indivisible, that among our aspirations is that Ireland be One Nation, Free and in control of Its own destiny. Then there is the final, and in my opinion most important part of our Motto, Christian Charity.

The fact that we pronounce ourselves to be a Christian organization means that we subscribe to those Fundamental Doctrines that are held by the Catholic Church, presented in the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds. We state that our common Christian Faith is central to our lives and our organization; moreover, we base our actions on the type of Charity that springs from such Faith. But what do we mean by Charity? Once again we return to the Latin, where the word Caritas, which meant preciousness, dearness or high price, was adapted by the early Christian community to describe the Greek word Agap?, which is the complete self-giving Love that God showered on the human race by becoming one of us, and offering Himself on the Cross for our Salvation. Granted, we are human, and by our nature we are inclined to sin, but that does not mean we do not aspire to live out the type of Charity that God gives us the grace to live.

Now that I have covered that, let me return to two years ago, when we were in Cincinnati for the 2010 Convention. I have to admit that I was disappointed, to say the least, with the results of the elections, but not only because I believe a good friend of mine was burnt, but because I knew what an asset this Brother would have been to the National Board and the Order as a whole. Whether it was anti-New York sentiments, persons with their own agenda, or the mismanagement of delegates by others, that election is in the past, and I am hopeful that as Hibernians we can put our own narrow agendas behind us, forgive any slights that we may feel and bring the AOH forward. When we come together to vote this July, we need to look at what is good for the Order as a whole, not what one state or individual may want. We need to vote for men who do more than shake hands, men who are willing to pull up their sleeves and actually work for the good of the AOH. We need to make sure that those who hold office hold our Motto of Friendship, Unity and Christian Charity as a guiding principle, and not something muttered.

Yours in Christ and our Motto,

Fr. Henry W. Reid

Deputy Chaplain

“How do you get away with writing what you do?” This was the question someone asked me in Philadelphia, as we gathered for the National Board meeting weekend, which was followed up by comments that things I had written in this paper were somehow radical or revolutionary. Inspired by the perception that I am a revolutionary, I am now going to attempt to write the most radical statement that I possibly can. The Creator of everything that exists, who continues to hold everything in existence, became part of His creation. Brothers and sisters, that is the most radical statement that can be made, yet many of us could glance right over those 18 words and not even pause at the period to soak it in; be honest with yourself, did that sentence cause you to pause before you moved onto this one.

While this may not seem like a radical statement to us, proof of which is that it may not have raised an eyebrow as we read it, it is a statement that separates two billion people, Christians, from four billion people, non-Christians. It is a statement that is considered heretical by about 18 million Jews and 1.5 billion Muslims, not to mention the great discomfort it gives to Jehovah Witnesses, who actually removed it from the Bible in order to support their “theology.” The Incarnation, as it is known by Christians, is central to our Faith; in fact no one can be considered a Christian who does not take as a central tenet of their belief that Jesus Christ is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. Perhaps this is why many of us did not find my earlier statement all that radical, as we have been raised on this belief since we were children.

How is it that something as disturbing as God becoming a human being can cause revulsion in the hearts and minds of Jews, Muslims and JWs, but barely raise a stir in the hearts of those who profess to follow Him. It is the great statement from John (1:14) “And the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us,” that describes the taking on of our humanity by the One who created our humanity. God, who has existed before time itself, since He brought time into being, who has created the Universe and all it holds, but transcends the Universe, being present in every aspect of Creation, but not contained by it, allowed Himself to become a creature, a part of creation. That the Second Person of God, who is perfectly relational with the Father and the Holy Spirit, who is in fact Perfect in Himself, came among us out of Love is so often overlooked by all of us who have received this gift of Love Itself. This Incarnation, which held the early Church Fathers in awe, gets passed over by those of us who will not take the time to recognize what has happened, and what it means.

Now we come to the great question: what does the Incarnation mean to me in my life? How does the knowledge that God became a human being alter my view of the world and my view of those people around me? If you did not think that the statement: “The Creator of everything that exists, who continues to hold everything in existence, became part of His creation.” was radical or revolutionary, you have not thought about it long enough. Only through His divinity has He redeemed us through taking on our humanity.

As we celebrate the Incarnation, as we gather together with friends and family this Christmas Season, let’s take time to meditate, to reflect, upon the great gift we have been given. In the words of St. Methodius, “His compassion for us compelled Him, who cannot be compelled, to be born in a human body at Bethlehem.”

Nollaig Shona Daoibh

Deputy Chaplain

Back in July, I listened to something that I never thought I would ever hear from a Fine Gael politician, let alone the Taoiseach himself: a rebuke, not of an individual Bishop, but of the Vatican itself. This reproach was brought about upon the presentation of the report of the Commission of Investigation into the Catholic Diocese of Cloyne, which presented evidence of obstruction by members of the hierarchy in Cloyne, with the collaboration of the Papal Nuncio.

At the heart of this controversy was the implementation of the policy agreed upon by the Irish Bishops, around the document Child Sexual Abuse: Framework for a Church Response. Upon investigation of sexual abuse in the Diocese of Cloyne, it was discovered that the policy set forth in the Framework document was not implemented, and was dismissed by a representative of the former Bishop, Monsignor O’Callaghan. Complicating this was the agreement by the Papal Nuncio (the Representative of the Vatican to the government, and an advisor to the nation’s Bishops), with Monsignor O’Callaghan, on points of Canon Law. From a purely Canonical perspective, Monsignor O’Callaghan and Archbishop Giuseppe Leanza, the Nuncio, might arrive at their position; however, I cannot agree with it.

I do agree with Taoiseach Kenny in his calling for compliance in reporting the sexual abuse of minors; in this I believe he speaks for every Catholic in Ireland when he said:


I believe that the Irish people, including the very many faithful Catholics who — like me — have been shocked and dismayed by the repeated failings of Church authorities to face up to what is required, deserve and require confirmation from the Vatican that they do accept, endorse and require compliance by all Church authorities here with, the obligations to report all cases of suspected abuse, whether current or historical, to the State’s authorities in line with the Children First National Guidance which will have the force of law.


Is it anti-Catholicism to call for the Hierarchy to take responsibility and even for its members to be accountable? No, in fact other members of the Episcopacy have been attempting to bring the healing that is needed to the Church in Ireland. Such as Archbishop Martin of Dublin, who at the Liturgy of Lament and Repentance, at St. Mary’s Pro Cathedral, spoke the following:

Someone once reminded me of the difference between on the one hand apologizing or saying sorry and on the other hand asking forgiveness. I can bump into someone on the street and say “Sorry.”  It can be meaningful or just an empty formula. When I say sorry I am in charge. When I ask forgiveness however I am no longer in charge, I am in the hands of the others  Only you can forgive me; only God can forgive me. I, as Archbishop of Dublin and as Diarmuid Martin, stand here in this silence and I ask forgiveness of God and I ask for the first steps of forgiveness from of all the survivors of abuse.

The fact is that many of us in the Hierarchy feel sorrow and remorse for what has been done, and we look for a way to bring healing, to our brothers and sisters who have suffered abuse, to those who have had their faith in the Church shaken by the scandal, and for ourselves as we struggle to reconcile the love we have for Christ’s Church, while recognizing the evil that has been done by our brother priests. Even the Taoiseach acknowledged that not every priest shares in the responsibility for what happened:

Clericalism has rendered some of Ireland’s brightest, most privileged and powerful men, either unwilling or unable to address the horrors cited in the Ryan and Murphy Reports. This Roman Clericalism must be devastating for good priests … some of them old … others struggling to keep their humanity … even their sanity … as they work so hard … to be the keepers of the Church’s light and goodness within their parishes … communities … the human heart.

Personally, I thank the Taoiseach for his words, and I pray that all of us can begin to rebuild the Church, in Ireland, in America, and throughout the world, and with the Grace of Christ, that we may be made worthy of the gift of His Church.

Deputy Chaplain

Since my appointment as Deputy National Chaplain, I have been fielding questions on my position on Northern Ireland, and my immediate response is that I have always loved Donegal, but if you are talking about the six counties, it gets a little more complex. Complex is probably the best word to describe the situation in the Six, as well as my position on what is happening there. A friend asked me if I was opposed to the peace process. First of all, I am a priest, a Christian, and have many people that I care about living in Ireland, many of them in the British controlled section, who I worry about. I am all in favor of peace. But we also have to look at what we mean by peace. This is where it gets complex, because as well as being a priest, I am also an Irish Republican, and it is my firm belief that only through the establishment of a 32 county sovereign Republic, can there be any hope of peace, because only through a United Irish Republic can justice be assured for all. That being said, I don’t necessarily agree with the “peace” process that has been pursued by Sinn Fein (and for the sake of brevity and sanity I am not going to refer to them as Provisional Sinn Fein, as this is the one everyone recognizes as SF), since I think much has been sacrificed for various reasons, but peace and justice will not be served by the current direction.

Before I go any further, let me explain my position on “dissident” Republicans. Politically, I can see where there would be a great deal of frustration, not only among the older leaders who sacrificed their youth to the cause of an Irish Republic, only to see (remember it’s about perceptions) Gerry Adams and others abandon these principles. Keep in mind, many of the men and women that lead these “dissident” groups were involved in Irish Republicanism before Gerry Adams or Martin McGuinness were, some of them served alongside of the two. I think the biggest tragedy with the political groups is that they represent a failure of dialogue within Republicanism; the leadership of Sinn Fein failed to listen to its base (and for those who disagree with this last part, I’ll tell you later on why I’m not). As for the military wings of these different groups, I wish they would take their weapons and put them up in their attics for the next ten years, or more. Do I dispute that Irish Republicans have a right to be armed? No, especially since I believe that the right to keep and bear arms is a God given right of every free man and woman, that’s why it’s enshrined in the Bill of Rights of the United States. Neither do I deny them the right to the armed struggle, since it was the armed struggle that forced the British government to negotiate with Irish Republicans for peace, but this is just not the time. Now is the time for talking, for dialogue, and for envisioning what a future Irish Republic will look like.

There has also been a lot of talk about the killing of a Catholic PSNI officer by members of the RIRA. Is it tragic? Yes. Should it have happened? No. But I have a big problem with Sinn Fein and others exploiting this young man’s death for their own political agenda, or to use it as a club to silence anybody that may oppose the current political strategy. There are three concerns I have with the PSNI (Policing Service of Northern Ireland): 1) Before the Good Friday Agreement, the RUC, predecessor to the PSNI, numbered 16,000, which was 10,000 more than recommended by the European commission on policing, for the size of the population. The PSNI should only have 6,000 members. 2) Many of the members of the PSNI are former RUC men, who should not be allowed to police a herd of goats, let alone human beings. The human rights violations committed by them should have resulted in War Crimes charges, not pensions and promotions. 3) While Sinn Fein and others are complaining that the quota of Catholics (50% of the force) has not been realized, I object to the way that the Catholic recruitment was pursued. Advertisements in Polish language newspapers in Ireland, England, the US and Poland assisted in the recruitment of many Catholics, who really don’t give a damn about Ireland or the Irish. 4) While I can recognize that many young Catholics in the six counties viewed a position with the PSNI as a job, as a way to better themselves, and I realize that not all of them came from Irish Nationalist, let alone Republican, families, it is a concern that they are now committed to defending the interests of the British Crown above all else, since their careers and pensions depend upon continued British rule.

As far as Sinn Fein goes, am I completely opposed to them? No. In fact I see that they could be the best chance of achieving an Irish Republic with the next generation. However, there is also the possibility that they could destroy everything Irish Republicans have struggled for over the past 213 years. I disagree with Sinn Fein on their abortion policy, not only as a Catholic priest, but as an Irish Republican; the Right to Life is the fundamental right of any human being, denial of that right is the denial of all other rights. As for Socialist politics, Sinn Fein has to make up their mind whether they are a Marxist group or not, instead of speaking Marxism on the Falls Road and Free Trade on 5th Ave. It is also discouraging to see Sinn Fein use tactics that were used for years by the British government against Republicans, to criminalize and isolate those who disagree with them. One of the big lies has been that all those opposed to the Sinn Fein leadership are lunatics wanting to turn back the clock, while many of those who have broken away, or been run out, had a long history with the party. Groups like Eirígí formed when members of Sinn Fein, many of whom had been advocates of the Good Friday Agreement, could not have their voices and concerns heard by the leadership. This was especially true over the issues of policing, and the abandonment of the Good Friday Agreement by Sinn Fein, in favor of the St. Andrew’s Accord, which was never approved by the Irish people. Yet all those who dare to challenge the Leadership are dismissed as opposed to the GFA, or told they do not know what they are talking about. Somebody asked me recently what gave me the right to talk about the situation in the six counties; my response is that God gave me Freedom of Speech. But if you want to know what makes me believe I am able to speak about the subject, without sounding like an idiot spouting off whatever some politician or party tells me to, then I would have to say: over 20 years of Irish Academic studies, an MA in Irish History, post-graduate research work in Irish History, living in Belfast for a couple of years, and for various periods before that, being active in the Irish Republican movement here and in Ireland, even when it was not popular or politically correct.

The fact is, I support peace in Ireland, but peace must come with justice, and anyone who advocates the democratic process, while at the same time silencing dissenting voices is not a champion of peace.

Deputy Chaplain

Father Reid introducing the New York State Board to the clergy at St. Patrick’s Cathedral during the 250th St. Patrick’s Day parade.

Sometimes it is difficult to point to an exact moment in one’s life that they can say is a defining moment, or even more difficult is to recognize those events that developed a person into who they are. When I was 12 years old, a series of events took place that would help to change the way I viewed the world; thirty years later we are in the middle of observing the anniversary of the 1981 Hunger Strike. For a twelve year old it is incredibly difficult to understand how and why a man would die on a Hunger Strike; and in hindsight I can only imagine how unbelievable it was for Gerard Sands to find out his father died, only days before his eighth birthday.

This year we celebrated the 95th anniversary of the Easter Uprising, and the sacrifice of those men who were spat on as criminals, denounced as psychopaths and executed as Traitors to the Crown. We also observe the 30th Anniversary of the Hunger Strike of 1981, in which 10 men died, seven of whom were members of the Provisional IRA and three belonged to the Irish National Liberation Army. Just like the leaders of the 1916 Rising, these men were denounced by the crown forces, and many within the Irish Nation as well, until their deaths made them martyrs for Ireland. There are those who get confused about the men who died on Hunger Strike, and sometimes people will believe the lies that the British Information Service (BIS) released to British, Irish and World media outlets; the BIS pursued a policy of Ulsterisation and Criminalisation, depicting Republican prisoners as low-lifes and thugs, and the Hunger Strikers as men who were serving life sentences.

The fact is that only a few of the twenty-three men who took part in the Hunger Strike of 1981 were serving sentences of more than a few years, but they gave their lives for a cause greater then themselves.  Bobby Sands, a member of the IRA, and leader of the Hunger Strike, died on the 5th of May after 66 days on hunger strike, the charge against him – possession of a firearm. Francis Hughes died after 59 days, on May 12th; he was serving time for membership in the IRA and the death of a soldier. Raymond McCreesh died on May 21st, after 61 days; the charges against him were attempted murder, possession of a rifle and IRA membership. Patsy O’Hara was a member of the INLA, charged with possession of a grenade; his death also came on May 21st, after 61 days. Joe McDonnell, the man the Wolfetones sing about (in the past it was to silence in the house, but as less people know or care, talking is more common), died after 61 days on July 8th; the charge against him was possession of a firearm. Martin Hurson died on July 13th, after 46 days; charged with attempted murder, involvement in explosions and IRA membership. Kevin Lynch, another member of the INLA, died on August 1st, after 71 days on Hunger Strike; charged with stealing shotguns and taking part in a punishment shooting. Kieran Doherty lasted 73 days, the longest on Hunger Strike, dying on August 2nd; charged with possession of firearms and explosives and hijacking. Thomas McElwee died on August 8th, after 62 days; charged with manslaughter. Finally, Michael Devine, a member of the INLA, and the last of the Hunger Strikers died on August 20th, after 60 days; he was in for theft and possession of firearms. It should not be forgotten that there were another thirteen men who came off of the Hunger Strike, but who suffered the lasting effects. It should also be remembered that seven others, including Brendan Hughes, were on Hunger Strike in 1980, a strike that ended because of British deception and lies.

I mention Brendan Hughes because of the great admiration I have for him, and his death in 2008, due to complications from the Hunger Strike, was a savage blow to Irish Republicanism; but for myself I will remember him for his patience in explaining things to myself and other young ones. There are far worse role models we could choose then those who sacrifice their freedom and their lives for others, whether in 1916, 1981 or 2011.  As we remember the 95th Anniversary of 1916 and the 30th of the Hunger Strike of 1981, we should remember the words of Bobby Sands “They have nothing in their whole imperial arsenal that can break the spirit of one Irishman who doesn’t want to be broken.”

Tiocfaidh ár lá

Deputy Chaplain’s Message

The two hardest things about writing a column such as this are deciding what is important enough to include and how to begin; now that I’ve started I just have to figure out what to include.

A few days ago I was woken up by the fire alarm, and upon arriving in the church was confronted with a man who was engulfed in flames, having caught on fire from the sticks used to light votive candles. This was one of the most horrific things I have ever experienced. I had to use a fire extinguisher to put out the flames and then tried my best to keep the man calm until the EMT’s, firemen and police arrived, a period that was three minutes in reality, but seemed like half an hour as it was taking place. Unfortunately, the man was severely burned over 60% of his body and, combined with the fact that he was 89 years old, it was unlikely that he would survive; I received the phone call Saturday morning informing me that he had passed away during the night. My prayers have been with him and his family since the fire and stay with them during this time of loss.

A question came up during the two days that he was in the burn unit, as to the decisions that needed to be made, such as life support and letting him pass away; fortunately a relative of the man, who is a priest, was able to guide his family’s decisions in the process. But not everyone is lucky enough to have a priest in the family anymore, and when these questions come up we Catholics can become confused as to how to proceed. As Catholics, as Christians, we believe in the Right to Life from the moment of conception to natural death, so the first thing we have to recognize is that it is not our decision to end life, that belongs to God. Placing a loved one on a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order, when they are terminally ill, or their quality of life would be seriously diminished is allowed under Catholic Moral teaching. While we are to seek out ordinary measures to preserve life, we are under no obligation to agree to extraordinary measures, especially if they are only going to prolong the suffering of the person who is ill or injured. It should be remembered that the basics of life, food and water, as well as the warmth one can expect from being sheltered, are ordinary measures, and should never be withdrawn as care.

Certain people get confused when it comes to Catholic teachings on end of Life issues and what they see as Euthanasia. First, we should understand what is meant by Euthanasia, which comes from the Greek for Good Death, but is far from it in reality; Euthanasia is a pretty name for assisted suicide. According to our Faith, we are not to assist in suicide, nor are we to actively seek to end our lives or the lives of other human beings; however, the double-effect of care we give to a person can sometimes result in their death. Any nurse or doctor can tell you that someone who is terminally ill or injured will normally experience great pain, and it is the obligation of those providing care for a patient to relieve that pain. Without intending to end their life, health care workers will administer doses of pain killers, especially morphine, to alleviate the suffering of a patient; as the pain increases, the dosage of pain relievers need to increase, till eventually the side effect, or double-effect, of the pain relievers is the respiratory failure of the person. The intention was never to end life, but to relieve suffering; the resulting death was unintended.

Just as it’s difficult to begin a column, it’s also difficult to bridge into another subject. I was back in Ireland in January, for the first time in four years, and I enjoyed catching up with everyone, or almost everyone, and seeing all the changes that have taken place. There have been a lot of changes in four years, with the economy of the Free State tanking in the past couple of years, friends and children of friends are looking at immigrating to Australia, especially since the U.S. Immigration laws are strict and (yes, I will say it) prejudiced against the Irish. Back in Belfast I experienced a very different city than I remembered, though certain things never change. When I went back four years ago, I missed my old friend and neighbor, Harry McParland, as he had died a couple of years before, but this time I really felt the loss, as he was the one person who truly knew everything and would dispense advice that actually helped. Harry lived next door to me, in Balfour Avenue, just off the Ormeau Road, and was always friendly, always smiling, and always surprising us with who he actually knew. A former I.R.A. volunteer, his nickname was “Dirty Harry”, the stories I heard about him did not compare to this friendly, cheerful gentleman who reached out to everyone he met. I remember Johnny Taylor Jr., of the Ulster Unionist Party, coming into the Hatfield [pub] on a Sunday to listen to a traditional seisiún, only to have Harry call him by name and ask after his father with genuine regard; I often wondered if Harry wasn’t one of the men who put a few bullets into John Sr. years before. Harry was one of those people who understood everything that was going on in Belfast and beyond, the layers of politics, economics and religion unfolded for that great man.

Speaking of politics, I congratulate Gerry Adams for winning the a seat in the Dail, representing Louth, I am sure that Gerry Adams Sr., a friend of Harry’s, is looking down full of pride that his son has followed the path of political activism he began in the 1960’s.