Holyoke's Irish Heart
He tells me that his father, Joseph, had wanted to go to college but the family situation didn’t allow for it. “He was very good at mathematics and he wanted to complete his schooling but his mother asked him to get a job so that he could help out. He agreed, but made her promise that with his help his four sisters would get an education and she kept that promise.”
Joseph became a successful businessman and made sure that his own children went to college. Bob became a schoolteacher, another brother became a college professor, and another had a successful career as a salesman. His sisters also had careers.
The belief in education and also some of the grit and determination of Margaret Friel carried down to her great-grandson, also called Joe, who received this year’s J.F.K. Award. The oldest of eight children, Joe (one of Irish America’s Business 100) recently retired as Vice Chairman of Cummins, the world’s largest independent diesel engine manufacturer, after a 35-year career.
Church & School
It was hard not to think of Margaret Friel and that generation of immigrants as we assembled in St. Jerome’s Church for the Bishop’s Mass on the eve of the parade. St. Jerome’s was the rock on which the future of those young Irish pioneers was built.
Bishop Timothy A. McDonnell, a Bronx man, con-celebrated Mass with Father Francis Sullivan, parish priest, and Father Cullen, a Welsh priest of Irish stock who came to Holyoke on a visit a few years ago and decided that he had found his calling.
Back in the day, it was Father Patrick Harkins who for 44 years not only looked after his community’s spiritual needs but saw that the children were educated as well.
In 1868, Harkins invited the Sisters of Notre Dame to open a school for girls. Nineteen Sisters took care of 509 students. In 1872, Father Harkins opened a school for boys. The Sisters of Providence took charge of the school in 1876, and also, at Father Harkins’ urging, established an institution of charity, a hospital and an Orphans’ Home in Holyoke.
Harkins, the good nuns and other clergy saw to it that the children of immigrants were well prepared to take their place as citizens of America – good Catholic citizens.
“On my father’s side, he had three first cousins who were priests – Father Sullivan, Father George Friel, and Father Charles Friel. On my mother’s side, six were priests and three were nuns. And even in my generation you had a huge amount of Irish that became priests and nuns,” Bob Loughrey says.