By Phil Gallagher


After the harshest winter in living memory, spring weather finally arrived in Connecticut. However winter took a toll on our ranks as three prominent Hibernians passed on to their eternal reward during the frigid days of February.  We in Connecticut still mourn the loss of Past National LAOH President, Sheila Clifford of Waterbury who is the only Connecticut woman to ever serve as LAOH National President.

We also mourn the loss of Edward McGuiness and Patrick McBennett from Norwalk.  Both men devoted many hours working for the AOH.  After serving as Division President in Norwalk, Ed McGuiness served a term as State President while Pat McBennett move up from Norwalk Division President to head the   Fairfield County board.   May they all rest in peace!

Kentucky Derby Day will have come and be long over the finish line when these words are read but it is worth noting that the annual race has become a festive yearly fundraiser for the   Hibernians of Danbury, Stamford and Meriden where they all have fun wearing the funny hats while putting money in the till!

Speaking of Meriden, we would like to offer belated congratulations to Scott McNulty for serving as the 2015 Grand Marshall of Meriden’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade!  It is also reported that the Meriden sponsored Tony Kenny fundraiser was so successful that they may bring him back in December for his Christmas Concert.

Meriden will be hosting once again the Connecticut Biennial State AOH Convention on July 10, 11, 12. Frank Kearney Jr. will have given a full report on what is planned and required at the State Board meeting, presided over by State President John Weihn in Waterbury on May 16, 2015. By the time this column is read most delegates should have already made their plans and reservations   to attend.

Stamford Hibernians showed their charity recently by hosting a tip night to benefit the Bennett Cancer Center in memory of popular Hibernians Bill and Felicitas Cody who left us too soon due to this insidious disease. Danbury Hibernians showed similar generosity by hosting a tip night on May 8, 2015    for the benefit of popular and talented Wendy Mitchell of the LAOH who is being treated for a virulent form of breast cancer.

The 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising is still a year away but Connecticut Hibernians are already planning for the centennial or raising awareness of the significance of this epic milestone.

State Board and Waterbury Freedom For All Ireland Chairman Joe Flaherty and his committee commemorated the 99th anniversary of the Rising on April 18th with ceremonies held appropriately at the AOH Celtic Cross monument at Old St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Waterbury.

Past National Director Jim Gallagher gave a public lecture entitled “1916 Uprising: Causes and Impact” at the New London Library on April 23 detailing how the Rebellion changed the course of Irish History,

The Fairfield County based Easter Rising 100th Anniversary Committee held their annual Mass & Commemoration for the 1916 Martyrs and the 1981 Hunger Strikers on Sunday April 19th at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Fairfield. This committee is not sponsored by the AOH but is made up of a number of Hibernians and is planning to unveil a memorial monument at the GAC in 2016.

Many communities in Ireland have annual Easter Commemoration Processions. One of the most impressive, which I had the honor of observing, is held each year in the Nationalist stronghold of Crossmaglen, County Armagh where local families parade in units carrying photographs of martyred family members who gave their lives for Irish Freedom since 1916.  It was a moving scene, which I will never forget!


Participants in the annual Crossmaglen Easter Commemoration procession march from Ranger's Hall to the Republican plot in St. Patrick's Cemetery.

Participants in the annual Crossmaglen Easter Commemoration procession march from Ranger’s Hall to the Republican plot in St. Patrick’s Cemetery.

Sinn Féin CouncillorTerry Hearty and Past National Director Phil Gallagher at Crossmaglen Ranger’s Hall where the Easter Commemoration Procession begins. (Photographs taken by Hibernian Owen McDonnell.)

Sinn Féin CouncillorTerry Hearty and Past National Director Phil Gallagher at Crossmaglen Ranger’s Hall where the Easter Commemoration Procession begins. (Photographs taken by Hibernian Owen McDonnell.)


By Phil Gallagher


The John P. Holland Division of New London has announced that on November 1, 2014, in partnership with Hanafin’s Pub on State Street, it will begin a public campaign to assist homeless veterans as they move into housing.  A bushel basket will be available each month at Hanafin’s in order to accept public donations of various house hold items that homeless veterans will need as they transition into permanent residences. New London Hibernians should be applauded for this worthwhile endeavor, which puts them in the company of the Waterbury AOH, which for years has had a committee that has been specifically set up to aid veterans.

This past October 26 the Hibernians of New London led by their energetic President Rick Scannell, hosted a fun and informative presentation on the ancient Celtic traditions of Samhain and the evolving practices that gave rise to Halloween.  The celebration of Halloween in American received an enormous boost in the mid 1800’s with the arrival of millions of immigrants from Ireland. The event was held at St. Joseph’s Church Hall in New London.

The AOH and LAOH of Danbury continued their annual celebration of the Celtic New Year. No October at the Irish Center in Danbury would be complete without the appearance of the black clad druids who recite their ancient chants. Old Annie the venerable storyteller from Crossmaglen was also present. She  flies over each year to mesmerize the locals with her tales of the fairies.  John Feeney of the Danbury AOH organizes this event each year.

Brother Feeney is also the originator of the monthly Seisun held at the Irish Center.  The Danbury Seisun is led by Nora Hanley and assembles on the first Sunday of each month with sometimes as many as a dozen or more musicians playing and singing the music of the Gael. All are invited to attend. The Danbury Irish Center is located just off exit 5 on Route 84 and is only a short commute for many Connecticut and New York Hibernians.

It was reported that a few of the men of Danbury accepted an invitation from President Tom Keane and   the brothers of the JFK Division of Bridgeport to join them for a grand excursion to West Point on November 22 for the Army and Fordham football game.  Activities Chairman Jim Murray was in charge of the event and Chef Mark Ryan ably assisted him for the tailgating festivities.

The Stamford AOH and LAOH hosted a successful State Board meeting in October at which the plans for next years State Convention in   Meriden were discussed.  The Convention is scheduled to take place on the second weekend in July.


Deceased Hibernians

November is the time when the Hibernians of Connecticut honor the memory of their deceased brothers and sisters. The JFK and Mae King Divisions of Bridgeport always have a special mass celebrated at the beautiful Chapel of the Fairfield University Preparatory School, by their Chaplain Father Mark Ryan of the Society of Jesus.  This year a vigil mass was held at 4 P. M. on the 1st of November.

Father Jeff Couture, Chaplain of the AOH and LAOH of Danbury celebrated a Mass for deceased Hibernians on November 7, 2014 at the Danbury Irish Center. He had also celebrated a Mass in August at the same location in memory of our Lady of Knock.

At the regularly scheduled October meeting of the Monsignor Slocum Division of Waterbury a motion was overwhelmingly passed to endorse the Erie Nua program for Ireland. Previous to this, the Waterbury Freedom for All Ireland Committee had held a fundraiser in September to benefit the children and families of Irish Republican political prisoners in Ireland.

On November 22, Division #2 of Hartford celebrated a significant milestone. On that date the men of Hartford marked the 60th anniversary of the founding of their Division with a dinner dance that was held at the Irish American Home in Glastonbury.

With the cold of winter fast approaching it is nice to remember the events of the warm pleasant days such as the annual cruise around the Thimble Islands that is sponsored by the Father McKeon Division #7 of New Haven and   which is always a summer highlight.


Daniel Ryan

Before closing this column, I would be remiss if I did not take note of the passing of Past Connecticut State President and National Director Daniel Ryan. I first met Dan in April of 1966 when I was sworn into the Danbury Division, which was the same evening that Dan transferred his AOH membership to Danbury from Stamford. Dan had immigrated to Stamford in the 1950’s from Roscrea, County Tipperary. Dan served as President of Danbury and later as State Vice-President and President before serving two terms as a National Director.  Dan was always in the thick of things when it came to Hibernian affairs and participated in many spirited debates. He was an innovator who established the Hibernian of the year Award in Danbury and the Irish Way Scholarship Program when he was State President. Dan is still remembered by many Hibernians from around the country and some even remember when he outfitted the entire Connecticut AOH and LAOH delegation with green ten gallon Stetsons for the 1982 National Convention in San Antonio. Dan Ryan was a singer of Irish Ballads who could also belt out fast Irish tunes on the harmonica.  He was a navy veteran who recalled to me that one hot, very dark night in the tropics when his ship was anchored far out to sea, he stepped out on deck and began to play a few Irish airs on his harmonica for his own amusement.  He did not know how far the sound carried until he stopped and hundreds of lonely sailors applauded in the darkness and asked for more.  Daniel Ryan, may he rest in peace.


Chairman Ted Lovely, Past State LAOH President Kay Egan, Captain Verrnazza and Fairfield State Representative Wang at the Commodore Barry ceremonies at Southport, Connecticut.

Chairman Ted Lovely, Past State LAOH President Kay Egan, Captain Verrnazza and Fairfield State Representative Wang at the Commodore Barry ceremonies at Southport, Connecticut.

Hibernian Pipers  Peter Hearty and Art Begin compare notes at the Connecticut AOH softball bash.

Hibernian Pipers Peter Hearty and Art Begin compare notes at the Connecticut AOH softball bash.


Connecticut 2

Theresa O’Sullivan of Bridgeport sings the National Anthem while the Color Guards from the Port 5 Naval Reserve Unit and the John Barry Council K of C stand at attention. The annual event celebrating the birth of Commodore John Barry is sponsored by the Fairfield County Board. AOH Board President Jim Murray and Bridgeport President Tom Keane assisted Chairman Ted Lovely in presenting a splendid program.


By Phil Gallagher

The 4th annual Connecticut AOH Softball Bash was held on Saturday, August 16th at 9:00am at Memorial Field in New Fairfield.  The event has been hosted alternately by the J F. K. Division of Bridgeport and the John A. Gildea Division of Danbury and co-chaired by Financial Secretary, Jay King of Danbury and Activities Chairman and Fairfield County President, Jim Murray of Bridgeport.

For the first time since the inception of this annual event, the men of Bridgeport proudly brought the trophy home with them after a hard earned 9 to 5 victory over a tenacious Danbury squad. The whole day was a success and raised money for Ann’s Place which is a cancer support group located in Danbury. Jim Murray stated that he wished that there were more Hibernian events like this. Plans are already being made for next years bash with the hope that more teams will participate.  The event could become a tri-state affair if the Informal invitations that have been extended to the Hibernians of Albany and Newport are acted upon.  Congratulations to Jay King and his Danbury committee for a job well did.

On August 17, Jim Gallagher of the New London AOH presented a tribute to John P. Holland   the father of the modern submarine and the namesake for the New London AOH Division   Jim gave a wonderful talk on Holland’s life and career at the New London Maritime Museum. This year is the 100th anniversary of Holland’s death.

New London Hibernians celebrated the feast of the Assumption at Fort Trumbull with a special Mass that was celebrated by their Division Chaplain, Father Mark O’Donnell.  The Mass was followed by a tasty lunch that was served under a tent at the historic Fort.

Many annual Division activities have taken place as the summer comes to a close.  Meriden held its annual family picnic on August 23 at their spacious grounds while New London held theirs on Sept 13th at McCook Park in Niantic.  The Hibernians of Bridgeport held their annual baseball outing on September 14 by attending a Bridgeport Bluefish game. In Waterbury State Freedom for All Ireland Chairman Joe Flaherty and his committee hosted their annual fundraiser in aid of the families of imprisoned Republicans.

COMMODORE JOHN BARRY DAY was held on Saturday, September 14.  This is a grand annual event where the Fairfield County Board with great assistance from the Hibernians of Bridgeport and the Naval Veterans Reserve honor and commemorate Commodore John Barry, the Father of the American Navy.  The event was held   on Perry Green in Southport Harbor with a reception immediately following at the Port 5 Naval Veterans Club.  There will be a further report on this event in the next issue of the Digest.


Peter Moore of New London gives the First Reading at the Mass for the Feast of the Assumption at Fort Trumbull

Peter Moore of New London gives the First Reading at the Mass for the Feast of the Assumption at Fort Trumbull

Patrick Hearty of the Mighty Plowboys sings at the Mighty Plowboy's AOH sponsored Free Concert at the Ives Center in Danbury.

Patrick Hearty of the Mighty Plowboys sings at the Mighty Plowboy’s AOH sponsored Free Concert at the Ives Center in Danbury.

Connecticut News

By Phil Gallagher

Two of Connecticut’s AOH Divisions celebrate anniversaries this fall.  Meriden Div. 1 celebrated its’ 90th anniversary with a gala outing on September 7.  However, the spirit of Hibernianism has actually been alive and well for much longer in Meriden since it first started hosting State Conventions back in 1874.  In fact, Meriden has hosted 12 State Conventions, which is more than any other Connecticut city and the men and women of Meriden will go to the well again in 2015 when they host the next biennial State Convention.  Since 1969 the AOH of Meriden have presented (two) annual $2,000. scholarships to graduates of Meriden High School. This significant annual donation is one of the largest in the City of Meriden.

Starting in October the John P. Holland Division will also begin a series of events commemorating the 50th anniversary of their charter.  Like Meriden, the roots of Hibernianism in New London go back a lot farther into history.  New London has been a center of Hibernian activity since the 1870’s when the St. Patrick’s Day Parades hosted by Div 1. of New London were attended by Hibernian Divisions from all over eastern Connecticut and Rhode Island.  The New London celebration will include a Mass followed by an Irish breakfast and displays of Irish History and culture on October 27. On November 2 a formal Dinner will conclude the commemoration. All profits from these events will go to the St. Joseph’s School Scholarship. In August the Men of the John P. Holland Division had participated with their Chaplain, Father Mark O’Donnell in the first procession of the Feast of the Assumption between St. Mary and St. Joseph Church.  Earlier in August, New London was the scene of the North American Curragh Association Regatta.  This event included Curragh Clubs from Boston, Albany, Philadelphia and Annapolis.

John Barry has not been neglected by Connecticut either.  Jim Gallagher gave a presentation on the Commodore on September 17th to the Irish History Roundtable of New Haven.  On September 14th, the Fairfield County AOH and LAOH once again honored the anniversary of Barry’s death with elaborate and meaningful ceremonies at Perry Green in Southport.  This annual event has grown each year and sets a standard for Hibernian Divisions everywhere to follow. This year’s program included a military color guard, military firing squad, the pipes and drums of the Gaelic American Club of Fairfield and a keynote address by Commander Regina Gallagher Marengo USN.  Hibernians everywhere should feel proud of the effort made by the Fairfield County Board to honor this great Irish American hero.

On a picture perfect late summers day at Bobby Sands Circle in Hartford the 32nd annual commemoration of the deaths of the ten Hunger Strikers was vividly conducted by Waterbury and State Freedom For All Ireland Chairman, Joe Flaherty and his Committee, and an enthusiastic group of participants. The program opened with the singing of the Soldiers Song and the Star Spangled Banner, which was followed by a mixture of rousing speeches and heartfelt poetry in honoring those who had made the ultimate sacrifice in 1981.

The sympathies of all Connecticut Hibernians go out to the John F. Kennedy Division of Bridgeport on the untimely death of their fine chaplain, the Reverend Dr. Brian Shaw who was the pastor of St. Ann’s Parish in Milford at the time of his death.  Father Shaw was born in Meriden and will be missed by a wide circle of people whose lives he touched.

Money was raised for charity at Connecticut's Third Annual Softball Tournament held at Foote Field in Milford. From left, Jay King with the Thomas A. Gildee Div 3 of Danbury holds the trophy with Tom Keane, John F Kennedy Div 1 President and the Connecticut State Vice President.

Money was raised for charity at Connecticut’s Third Annual Softball Tournament held at Foote Field in Milford. From left, Jay King with the Thomas A. Gildee Div 3 of Danbury holds the trophy with Tom Keane, John F Kennedy Div 1 President and the Connecticut State Vice President.

Connecticut News

The AOH of Meriden is celebrating two anniversaries this year. This is the 40th year that Meriden Hibernians have occupied their spacious Hall and Grounds on Melville Avenue. It is also the 90th Anniversary of the merger of Division 1 and Division 2 to form the AOH of Meriden. The consolidation vote occurred on September 6, 1923 at Horrigan’s Hall in Meriden with John C. Reilly being elected to serve as the first President of the combined Divisions. Mr. Reilly would go on to serve as Connecticut State AOH president from 1941 to 1946. To commemorate their anniversary the Meriden Hibernians are planning a gala entertainment and dinner dance for Saturday night September 6. To obtain tickets for this must attend event, contact Frank Kearney Jr.

Stamford Hibernians were very much saddened by the death of Monsignor Bill Nagle who passed away in April. Monsignor Nagle was the long time pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Stamford. He loved the Order and all things Irish and had served as Chaplain of the General Sheridan Division of Stamford as well as the Fairfield County AOH Board. I always enjoyed chatting with this wonderful priest and human being whom I had the privilege of meeting because of my association with the Order.

— Phil Gallagher

New Connecticut AOH and LAOH officers with State Chaplain Brother Thomas Fahy.

Connecticut 1B



Connecticut News

By Phil Gallagher


It is with a heart still heavy with sadness that I begin to write the Connecticut Report for the edition of the Hibernian Digest that begins the year 2013. At no time in the 74 years that I have lived in Western Connecticut has any event ever so profoundly affected the residents of this little corner of the world, as did the horrific tragedy that occurred on December 14, 2012 only a few miles from my doorstep in nearby Newtown.  Like a stone cast into the water, the deaths of those heroic educators and the children they tried to protect, affected an ever-widening circle of grieving parents, relatives, friends, neighbors and people of goodwill from around the Globe. I did not know personally any of the victims but I know people who did and I grieved along with them.  St. Rose of Lima Parish in Newtown was overwhelmed with the number of funerals. The local Knights of Columbus provided help around the Church and asked for assistance from neighboring councils to aid them   during the funerals. I was able to help at the last of them and witnessed the enormous amount of memorials that caring people from near and far brought to the Village of Sandy Hook.

Two days after the tragedy. I attended Mass at my Parish Church in Bethel where my   eight-year-old granddaughter and the other members of the children’s choir were to sing.   As their angelic voices filled the church, many parishioners openly wept.  It was a scene that I won’t soon forget.

"Three Wise Men" from Bridgeport, Recording Secretary, Tom Sullivan; Vice-President, Dave Ryan. & Treasurer, Steve Boyle bring  Christmas presents to  the children at the Daughters of Charity Mission/

“Three Wise Men” from Bridgeport, Recording Secretary, Tom Sullivan; Vice-President, Dave Ryan. & Treasurer, Steve Boyle bring Christmas presents to the children at the Daughters of Charity Mission/

No Hibernian families that I know of were directly affected by this horrific event. .  However Connecticut Hibernians led by the AOH & LAOH of Bridgeport revived the Mass of the Holy Innocents to honor the children killed in Sandy Hook and by Hurricane Sandy as well as all the unborn children which abortion prevents from ever seeing the light of day.   Bridgeport Chaplain Father Brian Shaw at the Church of St. Ann in Milford, Connecticut celebrated the Mass on December 28, 2012.

In the midst of so much sadness it is heartwarming to be able tell of the enormous amount of good that Connecticut Hibernians have been doing.

Bridgeport President, Tom Keane, Connecticut State President, Bill Flannery and Hibernian work crew at AOH Gerristen Beach, December 15.

Bridgeport President, Tom Keane, Connecticut State President, Bill Flannery and Hibernian work crew at AOH Gerristen Beach, December 15.

State Vice-President John Weihn reports that his home Division in Naugatuck known as the Patrick Conran Division has donated $175. 00 to the Howard Whitmore Library in Naugatuck in order to purchase new Irish-related books to add to the Irish collection that Librarian John Weihn has built up there. This was done in honor of the 175th anniversary of the AOH

State FFAI Chairman Joe Flaherty of Waterbury   reported that November 27, 2012 was set aside at the Waterbury AOH Club for the signing and sending of Christmas cards, to those Republican Prisoners of War who are still held in British dungeons.

Patrick Fahey of the Danbury AOH at Breezy Point, December 1.

Patrick Fahey of the Danbury AOH at Breezy Point, December 1.

The men and women of the AOH & LAOH at the Greater Danbury Irish Center once again answered the call for Christmas Charity by preparing 50 food baskets to be distributed to the needy.  Kudos also to veteran   Danbury Division 3.  members Tom Foley and Jim Comer who man the   watch one night a month at a Danbury Homeless Shelter and who launder the clothes of the unfortunates while they gain safe nights sleep.

The JFK Division of Bridgeport has truly been an inspiration to other Hibernians in Connecticut.  President Tom Keane And Financial Secretary Chris Boyle joined by State President Bill Flannery have led several relief expeditions to the Rockaways, Breezy Point and the AOH Hall at Gerristen Beach in Brooklyn to bring large quantities of supplies and to join their New York brothers to help with the cleanup. The men of Bridgeport have been joined by Hibernians from New London, New Haven, Waterbury, Danbury and Stamford, New London Hibernians have collected five truckloads of clothing for the victims of Sandy and these have been delivered by Fran DePeter of the John Holland Division. As we go to press more   relief expeditions are being planned for January 2013.

We cannot say enough

Seamus Boyle, Jere Cole, Bill Flannery and Brendan Moore at AOH Hall Gerristen Beach on Dec. 15.

Seamus Boyle, Jere Cole, Bill Flannery and Brendan Moore at AOH Hall Gerristen Beach on Dec. 15.

about the charitable efforts of the AOH men from Bridgeport.  Through the efforts of their annual Shamrock Drive they were able to present $2,000 worth of toys to the community served in Bridgeport by the Daughters of Charity Mission.

I ask my brother and sister Hibernians to say extra prayers for Newtown and its people. The Irish legacy in Newtown is deep and it goes back a long way to the mid nineteenth century when many of the Irish construction workers who brought the railroad there decided to settle and buy farms. In 1860 when Irish immigrants elsewhere were not getting the best reception, the Pastor of the First Congregational Church in Newtown wrote the following about the 506 Irish people, comprising 117 families who lived in Newtown at that time. ……….”There is no class of people in this community more industrious than the Irish. Eighty-one of these families own real estate, and it is a common remark, that they stand ready to buy up all the land thrown into the market in the town.  As fast as our American families fall into decay, and are obliged to sell their property, the Irish catch it up. They buy poor land, and by hard work improve it, and they buy good land, and keep it good.  It is a constant marvel to see how fast they are getting on in the world”…

Connecticut News

Connecticut State President Bill Flannery presided over a very successful State Board meeting on April 21. The JFK Division of Bridgeport hosted the meeting and Bridgeport President Tom Keane welcomed the Division Representatives. Plans were made for the upcoming National Convention. Connecticut Hibernians are very enthusiastic about Frank Kearney’s bid to become National Treasurer. Frank has done a remarkable job at every AOH office he has ever held and Connecticut is anxious to share Frank’s ability to get things done with all Hibernians.

Both Bridgeport and Waterbury Hibernians commemorated the Anniversary of the Easter Uprising in solemn fashion with the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass followed by appropriate speeches. The Waterbury Division under the Chairmanship; of Joe Flaherty was able to make a tidy contribution to Frank Kearney’s campaign with funds raised at their breakfast. The Bridgeport AOH is planning to erect a 100th anniversary memorial to the men and women of 1916 on the grounds of the Fairfield County Gaelic Club and is looking for ideas as to how best to honor their memory

Fairfield County Board President Steve Fako announced that once again Fairfield County will celebrate John Barry Day on September 15 at Southport Harbor in conjunction with the local Naval Reserve Unit. This has become a Fairfield County tradition and Ellen McShane and Past State President Bob O’Sullivan will chair the event. Past President O’Sullivan was honored at the State Board meeting with a hearty round of applause as current President Bill Flannery presented him with his Past President’s Pin and Sash. Bob is a familiar figure at National conventions and is one of the mainstays of the AOH in Connecticut.

On September 18, 2012, Past National Director Jim Gallagher will give a talk on John Barry at the New Haven History Roundtable. Jim has delved deeply into the career of the Commodore and this promises to be an event you will not want to miss.

The Hartford AOH and LAOH are hard at work planning next year’s State Convention, which will be held on June 7, 8 and 9.

The Danbury AOH and LAOH are also hard at work planning the 18th Annual Greater Danbury Irish Festival, which will be held at the Ives Center on September 23, 24 and 25.

The Bridgeport AOH has announced the wonderful news of the formation of an AOH Junior Division in partnership with the St. Patrick Gaelic Football Club. We can only wish for the highest success of this endeavor, which speaks well for the future of Hibernianism.

Tucked away in the Connecticut River Valley in the Town of Portland is the smallest but oldest AOH Division in Connecticut. The Portland Division was chartered in 1875 by Irish quarrymen who dug and produced the famous Portland Brownstone, which was shipped to Manhattan for use in so many residences. We salute this Division with the hope they will continue the long AOH tradition of Portland, Connecticut.

Bishop Lori celebrates 62nd Annual AOH Communion Breakfast and Mass

John F. Kennedy Division #1 (Bridgeport, CT) of the Ancient Order of Hibernians celebrated their 62nd Annual Father & Son Communion Breakfast and Mass on Saturday, March 11, 2012.  Mass was held at Saint Patrick’s Church on North Avenue in Bridgeport.  The Most Reverend William E. Lori, Bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport, celebrated the Mass along with Division Chaplain Fr. Laurence Ryan, S.J. of Fairfield Prep.

Following the Mass, over 220 Brothers enjoyed a traditional hearty Irish breakfast at the Gaelic American Club in Fairfield.  Toastmaster Ray Baldwin, the former First Selectman of Trumbull and currently President /CEO at St. Vincent’s Special Needs, read Governor Daniel P. Malloy’s Proclamation recognizing the JFK Division for “outstanding service through selfless work and dedication to the community and state of Connecticut”.

Bishop Lori delivered the keynote speech on religious freedom.  He spoke of the importance of prayer and the prayer campaign so that our country can remain a beacon of freedom.   “Even those who practice no faith at all have a stake in this.  If religious liberty is fatally compromised, it will not be too long before freedom of the press, freedom of speech and freedom of assembly are compromised”, said Lori.  A video of his remarks is available:   At the request of Timothy Cardinal Dolan, head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), Lori chairs the Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty.  His charge is to address growing concerns over the erosion of freedom of religion in America.  He has testified before Congress against the health coverage mandate that would coerce employers to pay for services for which they have moral objections, such as abortion, sterilization and contraceptives, and government contracting decisions that exclude agencies unless they provide such services.

Following the presentation of Bishop Lori’s 2012 AOH membership card, Tom Keane of Fairfield, President of the JFK Division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, presented the Bishop with a check for $1,000 for the annual Bishop’s Appeal.  Later Keane announced the formation of a Junior Division for boys between eight and fifteen years of age.  The Junior Division will be headed by Timothy Vino, 15 of Ludlowe High School in Fairfield, CT.  Applications are available on the Division website .  Keane encouraged all Brothers to “sponsor sons, nephews, friends and acquaintances who are interested in advancing the cause of the Irish Catholic community.”

During breakfast a video played to highlight some of the many activities the Division Brothers had coordinated throughout 2011.  Activities include charitable work at the Thomas Merton Center in Bridgeport CT, Irish cultural trips to New York City, hockey and baseball games, fishing trips and the first annual AOH Softball Tournament which raised over $1,000 for the Angels for Alex charity.  “2012 promises to be yet another great year with meaningful charitable work in the community coupled with fun activities to strengthen the bonds of friendship and unity” said Activities Chairman Jim Murray, of Weston.

Bridgeport President Tom Keane, left, State Secretary Steve Fako, Arch-Bishop William Lori, AOH Charity Secretary Fran Kearney Jr. and Conn. AOH President William Flannery at the Bridgeport Communion breakfast.

Connecticut News

President Bill Flannery presided over a very successful State Board meeting in Naugatuck on October1, during which reports were made and plans were developed for future events. A high point of the meeting was the unanimous endorsement of Frank Kearney Jr. of Meriden for the position of National Treasurer. Connecticut Hibernians are particularly proud of Frank and the excellent job he has done in every position of responsibility he has held in the AOH.  The Connecticut State Board would not enjoy a favorable financial position today if it were not for the work that Frank did as State President.

It was also announced at the meeting to hearty applause that the Hartford AOH Division and the newly formed Hartford LAOH Division would host the 2013 State Convention.

The Hartford Division is currently engaged in a vigorous membership drive. President Flannery also announced that Dave Reisdorf of Bridgeport is the new State Webmaster (

Connecticut Hibernians are particularly interested in the success of the Barry Gate project at Annapolis because of the work that was done by the late Tom Egan who worked tirelessly in his role as National Director to obtain the proper recognition of Commodore John Barry as the First Flag Officer of the United States Navy.

Despite the looming presence of Hurricane Irene, the First Connecticut Softball Bash went off as scheduled on August 25.  The event was put together by Bridgeport AOH activities Chairman Jim Murray. Over 40 members from the Bridgeport, Danbury and New Haven Divisions participated. The lads from Danbury walked away with the winner’s trophy and Manager Jason King promised to host the 2nd annual Bash in Danbury next year. Kudos to Jim Murray and all others who made this a successful event that brought together many young Hibernians, which cannot but help the promotion of Hibernianism in Connecticut.

Both the Danbury and Waterbury Freedom For All Ireland committees are doing great things. Danbury, led by Owen McDonnell, is working toward getting the City of Danbury to support a resolution for a United Ireland, while Waterbury, under the leadership of Joe Flaherty, commemorated at Bobby Sands Circle in Hartford the 30th anniversary of the death of the hunger strikers.

Most Divisions in Connecticut will be holding Masses for deceased members in November with Waterbury and New London having the distinction of holding commemoration ceremonies at the large Celtic Crosses that they own in local cemeteries.

Other items of note include:

Waterbury recently honored Past State President Bill Scully as Hibernian of the Year.

Meriden has been promoting Irish culture by holding Ceili Dances in its recently refurbished John & Dot Kasey Hall.

Danbury Hibernians completed their 17th annual Greater Danbury Irish Festival in September and held their annual Celtic New Year Celebration on Halloween under the chairmanship of John Feeney. Danbury and Stamford will both be providing turkeys to the needy for the Holidays while the JFK members from Bridgeport continue their fine work at the Merton Center.

Stamford, New London and Danbury also held golf tournaments. Danbury Vice-President Jim Palardy drew over 100 golfers for a shotgun start on October 15.

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A wreath was laid at Captain George Anthony's grave in New Bedford, MA, on July 29, 2011. From left, Frank O'Connor (MA), John Duddy (American Flag), Dick Wall (MA), Tom Yourell (Irish flag), Captain Eric Jones, Commander, USCG Barque EAGLE, Joe Walsh (MA), Lt. Jeff Janaro, Ops Officer, USCG Barque EAGLE, John Todd (MA), Sean Moore and Brian Moore (holding banner).

New London’s John P. Holland Division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians recently initiated a commemorative ceremony as part of its mission to preserve and promulgate Irish heritage.  The ceremony combined an event from the history of Irish freedom in America with New London’s heritage as home of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, with the Academy’s historical roots in New Bedford, MA, and with a tribute to the Coast Guard’s life saving heritage. Aware that the Barque EAGLE was going to make a stop in Ireland’s County Waterford as part of this summer’s cruise, and that it would also be stopping in New Bedford, Massachusetts, on its return cruise, AOH Division Vice President James Gallagher approached the skipper of the EAGLE, Captain Eric Jones, with a suggestion to tie the two stops together.  He loaned Captain Jones his copy of an appropriate historical book describing an heroic and daring 19th century Irish American seafaring event that serves as a milestone in the quest for human freedom.

In 1875 an old whaling vessel, the CATALPA, was purchased and restored in New Bedford by the Clan na Gael with the aim of freeing six Irish prisoners held in captivity in a British jail in Freemantle, Australia. The successful venture from New Bedford to the west coast of Australia is described in Peter Stevens’s 2002 book, “The Voyage of the Catalpa.” The Catalpa’s Captain George Anthony, with no ties to Ireland, agreed to lead the voyage because of his sense of fair play and humanitarianism. His actions during this voyage went well beyond the call of duty as he risked his life and career to effect the rescue.

Following the success of the voyage, the British Government banned Captain Anthony from sailing the seven seas in whaling vessels and from visiting any British ports, thereby ending his career at sea. Captain Anthony died in 1913 and is buried in New Bedford.

Brother Gallagher asked Captain Jones if he would like to participate in the laying of a wreath at Captain Anthony’s gravesite during his New Bedford port stop. Captain Jones was honored to pay his respects to a Yankee sea captain whose courage was representative of America’s championing of freedom. On July 29 the simple ceremony was attended by officers of the EAGLE, and by members of the State of Massachusetts AOH and the New London AOH. Captain Jones laid a beautiful wreath, courtesy of the Massachusetts AOH State Board, at Captain Anthony’s grave, while bagpiper Paul Boyle ( Div. 9, Plymouth) provided the background musical lament. Also, Peter Ryan, Great-Great Grandson of Captain Anthony, and a native of New Bedford, displayed some memorabilia belonging to Captain Anthony. Participating in the event were: from the New London, CT Division – Sean and Brian Moore, John Duddy, Tom Yourell and Jim Gallagher, and, from the Massachusetts AOH, State President Dick Wall (Div. 10, Lynn), State Treasurer Frank O’Connor (Div. 8, Lawrence), Joe Walsh and John Todd (Div. 9, Plymouth).

Captain Jones noted that the event was a fitting component in an educational journey for the crew of the Eagle; they sailed and met members of the Irish nautical team in Waterford; their return voyage approximated that of the legendary 6th century sailing path of St. Brendan’s voyage to the Americas, and they participated in this celebration of American freedom in the initial home of the Coast Guard training center, prior to the building of the present Academy in New London, CT.

As an epilogue to this adventuresome story it should be noted that in 1876 some of the funds raised in celebration of the successful voyage of the Catalpa were used by the Clan na Gael to give John P. Holland his start as a submarine developer. The U.S. Navy had recently rejected Holland’s proposal. In 1900, it was Holland’s Boat No. 6 that became the U.S. Navy’s first modern submarine, the SS-1, thus establishing the U.S. Naval Submarine Service.

Connecticut News

The First Annual Connecticut AOH Softball Bash was hosted by the JFK Division of Bridgeport on the 27th of August at Foote Field in Milford.  The event was organized under the leadership of Bridgeport Division activities chairman Jim Murray.  We don’t know who the trophy winner will be as we go to press but we do know that the event had been widely anticipated in Connecticut AOH circles and that all the profits will go to the ANGELS FOR ALEX fund.

Division 7 of New Haven sponsored a cruise around the Thimble Islands on Long Island sound on Sunday night July 31.  Saturday August 13 saw two AOH events.  In Meriden the annual family picnic held on the spacious grounds of the AOH Hall drew a substantial and well-satisfied crowd of adults and children who enjoyed the lovely weather and the fine music of the Rock of Cashel. Other activities planned in Meriden are a Ceili Dance on September 25, Mass for Deceased Members on November 12, the Annual Turkey Drawing on November 18, and an Art Auction on December 3.

On August 13th in Danbury, Kevin Hearty and his committee held their annual Pub Night fundraiser for the local Hibernian basketball team.  Local Irish troubadour Patrick Hearty entertained an enthusiastic group of attendees.

The Freedom For All Ireland Committee of the Danbury AOH under the chairmanship of Owen McDonnell is very actively raising public awareness and   pursuing support for a United Ireland.

Back in Bridgeport, Dave Howe informs us that Hibernians Richard W. Owens and his wife Debbie Owens are to be congratulated on being named co-Grand Marshals of the March 16, 2012 Greater Bridgeport Saint Patrick’s Day Parade. The Grand Marshal’s Ball is schedule for November 5, 2011 and tickets can be obtained by calling Dave at:  203-767-6510.

On September 18, Father Mark O’Donnell, Chaplain of the John P. Holland AOH of New London, celebrated a Memorial mass for the victims of the Irish Hunger of 1845-1850.  This event was sponsored by the New London Division in support of the Ad Hoc Hunger Committee and its efforts to commemorate each year the millions of Irish who died or were forced to immigrate because of the inhumane cruelty of British rule.  Following the Mass, which was celebrated at St Agnes Church in Niantic where Father O’Donnell is the pastor, a video presentation was shown in the church Hall where the price of admission was a non-perishable food item that was donated to a local Food Pantry. (