The Father Trecy Division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians formed in the North Alabama area in 2011 and recently marched in the 35th Huntsville St. Patrick’s Day parade. This was the first time that an AOH division marched in the parade and the first time the Father Trecy Division marched in a St. Patrick’s Day parade. In May, Paul Gleeson, the Consul General of Ireland in Atlanta, spoke with the Father Trecy Division and the Irish Society of North Alabama. (www.shamrockalabama.org).
Greetings from Alabama. The spring has seen great joy and tragedy.
On March 7 many members of the Fr. James E. Coyle Division participated in a diocesan-sponsored men’s gathering “Strong Men, Strong Faith”. Author Pat Lencioni and Scholar Jeff Cavins highlighted the evening, providing inspiration to the more than 1,000 men who gathered, including fellow Hibernian, Birmingham Bishop Robert J. Baker. The Division’s presence at the gathering was a positive.
The Division marched in the annual Birmingham St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 12, and participated in a Gaelic fair after the parade. Later that evening we joined together with a number of Birmingham’s finest Irish dancers and the local rebel band, Jasper Coal, to celebrate our heritage. Again, attendance was good and a fine time was had by all.
April 27 brought tragic loss of life and property to our great state. Thankfully, no members of our Division were impacted. The Division wishes to express heartfelt gratitude to so many in the order who offered their prayers and financial support. Our special thanks go out to our National Board and the Louisiana State Board for their generous donations. Again, the outpouring of support is humbling, in part because we are a new division.
June saw the initiation of two new members. We welcomed Bernie Brannan and Mickey Duggan to our brotherhood and family. We look to add more members to our group in the near future. Our new website will be an asset as we grow.
The high point of our year approaches, the memorial Mass for Father James Coyle, for whom our Division is named. Father Coyle, a native of County Roscommon, was martyred for the faith 90 years ago on August 11, 1921. We will partner with the Cathedral of St. Paul and the Father Coyle Project to sponsor the Mass and reception that will follow. We welcome all from the order who would like to join us for this solemn event.
Finally, but not least, special thanks go to JC Sullivan for sharing his research on the Irish contribution to the Confederacy. We appreciate the opportunity to learn more about those who came before us here in Alabama.
Congratulations to the Runge, Casey, Green and Naylor families on their new additions this year (with another this year to the Ayers family, God willing). May God continue to bless their families.
The Father James E. Coyle Division in Birmingham, Alabama was formed in 2008 and from our humble beginnings we have grown to approximately 40 members. We honor Father James E. Coyle, who lost his life for the faith on August 11, 1921. Father Coyle was born in Drum, County Roscommon in 1873. He sailed to Mobile, Alabama in 1896 soon after he was ordained. He was assigned to the Cathedral of St. Paul in 1904. He served as pastor at the Cathedral until he was shot by a local Methodist minister on the front porch of the rectory. Father Coyle had joined the shooter’s daughter and a Puerto Rican man in marriage. The shooter was not aware of the wedding. He was later acquitted in the criminal trial. His attorney, future Supreme Court justice Hugo Black, was paid by the Ku Klux Klan. More on the life of Father Coyle and his cause can be found at www.fathercoyle.org.
2010 has been a productive year for the division. We were visited in February by Pat and Brendan Shine, two of Father Coyle’s grand-nephews. Pat filmed a documentary, which include footage of our Division, on Father Coyle’s life and assassination for Irish television. His brother Brendan, a well-known Irish singer and entertainer, accompanied him. Brendan sang with Jasper Coal, Birmingham’s premier Irish rebel band, gracing the group with several songs at Matthew’s Grill. The documentary, entitled “A Cross in Alabama, appeared on Irish television (RTE) in March as part of its “Would You Believe” series.
We proudly marched in Birmingham’s St. Patrick’s Day parade on March 20. Later that day and evening we hosted our 2nd Annual St. Patrick’s Day Celebration. A number of Irish groups, including the Nashville Irish Step Dancers and the award-winning Ian Sturrock Memorial Pipe Band performed at Matthew’s in downtown Birmingham, followed by the vibrant sounds of Jasper Coal. One of the highlights of the day’s and evening’s festivities was the shaving of heads for Noah’s Light Foundation. Over $8,500 was raised to combat pediatric brain cancer. Marc Ayers (our division Marshall) spear-headed the fundraiser.
In June several members assembled at the St. John Vianney retirement home for priests to begin what we anticipate will be an on-going partnership with the Diocese of Birmingham to maintain the grounds of the property. The home is newly opened and will serve the retired priests of the diocese.
The remainder of 2010 will be busy as we coordinate a scholastic essay contest, a membership drive and attendance at Father Coyle’s Feast Day Mass at St. Paul’s. We are working to support the establishment of divisions in Mobile and Huntsville this year as well.