Irish American Heritage Month

As I write this, we are still in the dog days of summer, hot and humid in the wonderful Commonwealth of Virginia. But, brothers, now is the time to get active – to take those steps we all need to take to get March officially designated as Irish American Heritage Month. Our National President has made getting March designated permanently as IAHM a priority. That’s good enough for me – and I hope it’s good enough for all of us.

As you all know, at the recent National Convention in Cincinnati, we held our biennial elections which resulted in some new National Directors and new assignments. I am very honored and happy to say that the IAHM Committee consisting of myself, John Schell and Neil Cosgrove remain intact. John and Neil will be using all available resources to communicate the goals, objectives and ideas to all of you, going through National Directors and State Presidents. Additionally, we will be setting up meeting with key congressional leaders of the Ad Hoc Committee on Irish Affairs to enlist their support.

So what is it that we are asking you to do? It may look like a lot – but there is so much that can be done with the talent we have in the Order.

I am asking each State President to appoint a state IAHM Chairman to work with and coordinate the activities of County Boards and Divisions. Each County Board and Division should also appoint an IAHM Chairman. State Presidents, please take responsibility for making contact with the office of the Governor of your state asking the governors to declare March as IAHM. This needs to be done early on. Waiting until February to start the process just won’t work. I know – we had elections in Virginia in 2010 and I waited until the new Governor and his staff were in place – too late! So we are starting early this year.

Presidents down the line should be coordinating with local jurisdictions for them to declare March as IAHM. Talk to your mayors and other elected officials to make this happen. In doing this, be prepared to propose language for the resolution, focusing on the contributions of the Irish and those of us of Irish descent to the State, County or local jurisdiction. We need to stress positive contributions, avoiding the “wear your green, everyone is Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day” trivial prose.

We call on all – State, County, Division – to plan and execute positive activities for March that will stress and build upon our Irish Heritage. Do you need some ideas? Contact Dr. Tim O’Donnell, President of Christendom College in Virginia. He has a great series of talks on Catholic Ireland and the Nine Years War. The lectures are based on his book “Swords Around the Cross – The Nine Years War – Ireland’s Defense of Faith and Fatherland 1594-1603.” It is a fantastic book. Or, just get the book and present it to your local library. How about a series of talks either in schools or libraries by a local seanchai or storyteller. We have so many wonderful stories in our heritage. Have you considered having a Gaelic Mass around St. Patrick’s Day? Publicize it in your parish bulletin, and invite all your parish. Oh, by the way, these activities are also a wonderful way to find Irish Catholic men in your community who would make great members of the AOH.

The key to all this is that we must start now for activities to highlight our Irish American Heritage in March. The more we can take forward to our national elected leadership in Congress and the White House, the better chance we have in getting IAHM permanently designated for March – make it grow – so that the military, the Smithsonian, the Library of Congress and others can expend funds and manpower to recognize the contributions of Irish and Irish Americans to this great country.

We continue to ask you, our membership, to let the IAHM Committee know what you are doing in support of IAHM to help us strengthen our case with the appropriate legislative bodies at the National level.