St Brigid's Spared by $20 Million Gift
Acclaimed author Peter Quinn participated in the Bard for St. Brigid's II, and puts in perspective the role and place of St. Brigid's in the history of the Irish in New York. Here are some excerpts from his speech:
"Here we arrive at last, as James Joyce put it by 'a commodius vicus of recirculation' to this incredibly happy occasion filled with music, song, dance, and rejoicing. This is what the Spanish culture calls a fiesta. In Irish culture we call it a wake. Tonight, however, instead of sitting Shiva for a person, we are waking a certain idea that St. Brigid's was doomed and that only a fool could believe otherwise. In the wonderful words of St. Paul in the First Corinthians, 'It is the fools who have turned out to be wise, it is the weak who have turned out to be strong, it is the despised who have turned out to have honor.' Last week at the opening of the Irish apartment at Tenement Museum, Consul General of Ireland, Niall Burgess, reminded the audience that besides that apartment there was only one physical link that directly connected us with the immense and transforming human deluge that poured into this fort in the aftermath of the Great Hunger; one million people in 10 years. That other link he said was St. Brigid's. The fight to preserve that link often seemed the mother of all lost causes. But, no matter how lost or hopeless it seemed, we had what nobody else had. We had St. Brigid on our side. And it was St. Brigid, she, who made a difference, for who else could have inspired a $20 million miracle?"
Quinn went on to describe his own personal links to the church:
"The Quinns have been parishioners of St. Brigid's for over half a century. My grandfather was married at St. Brigid's in 1897. He liked it so much that when his first wife died he returned in 1898 to do it again. My grandmother put to rest any inkling he might have to return to St. Brigid's to make matrimony a third time by outliving him, as Irish women usually do, by thirteen years. My father was baptized in St. Brigid's in 1904. He received his first communion, first confession, and confirmation there. And so did his brother and sister, my aunt and uncle. I, on the other hand, had the good taste to receive all those sacraments in the Bronx. And since it doesn't look like I'm going to be ordained, the only other religious rite of passage that I can now look forward to having at St. Brigid's is my funeral!"
- Peter Quinn is the author of many books including Looking for Jimmy, Hour of the Cat and Banished Children of Eve, which has just been republished in paperback by The Overlook Press.
A Look Into the Life of an Irish-American Immigrant Family
A small coffin in a cramped room re-creates a sad day in the life of the Moore family, Irish immigrants who lived at 97 Orchard St. in 1869. The re-creation of the Moores' apartment, , which opened on June 17, is New York's Tenement Museum's first new exhibition in six years. During the hour-long tour you can catch a glimpse of the struggles faced by Irish immigrants in the late 19th century, with emphasis on the lack of knowledge about disease at the time. Though actual details of the child's death are unknown, through educated guesses and speculation, the curators of the Tenement Museum have pieced together a likely scenario of the day that Agnes Moore, the infant daughter of Irish immigrants Joseph and Bridget, died of malnutrition. With the mortality rate for the children of Irish immigrants at a staggering 25%, only four of the Moores' eight children made it to adulthood. Despite the hardships faced by the family, the apartment is infused with cheerful decorations: a mantle covered by a bright green runner, topped with ornaments, a man's top hat placed carefully alongside a cross. Steve Long, the museum's Vice President of Collections and Education, said in a recent article, "We wanted to emphasize the human urge to decorate."