New St. Pat's Rules

ST. Patrick's Day and Holy Week will not fall in the same week again until 2160 - which is soon enough for many Irish American Catholics and church leaders around the country.

Liturgical rules dictate that no mass in honor of St. Patrick can be offered on the Monday, March 17 because his feast day is considered lesser than Holy Week observances.

This already has had an impact on one major St. Patrick's Day parade in Savannah Georgia, where half a million usually turn out on the day to drown the shamrock and toast the saint.

Bishop Kevin Boland, however, has moved the parade to the previous Friday, March 14. While bars will open on the Monday, there will be no parades or masses held in honor of the day.

In Ohio a dispute has broken out in Columbus between the Shamrock Club, which organizes the parade there, and the local church. The club has decided to go ahead with the event on St. Patrick's Day, but the church is none too pleased.

Bishop Frederick Campbell warned the group to remove the parade and all other "observances of St. Patrick from Holy Week."

Mark Dempsey, head of the Shamrock Club, was not impressed.

"It's not a sin to celebrate your Irish culture," he said. "Actually you're born Irish first, and then you're baptized Catholic."

The Ancient Order of Hibernians have pulled out of the parade, however, heeding the church's order, and will march in the nearby one in Dublin, Ohio, instead.

New York's Edward Cardinal Egan has taken the line of least resistance, celebrating St. Patrick's Mass on the 14th, but also celebrating Mass on Monday, St. Patrick's Day, before the Fifth Avenue parade. The Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, however, have moved their annual dinner from the 17th to the 14th to comply with the church's instructions.

Philadelphia has also moved its parade date to avoid giving offense, and Milwaukee will parade sooner than usual, too.

The New York Friendly Sons will honor former Senator Bill Bradley and former Georgetown President Reverend Leo O'Donovan at their New York dinner.

Death of Bob Callahan

BOB Callahan, one of the pioneers of Irish American publications, died late last month in San Francisco.

Callahan, a Bay Area native, will be best remembered for his Callahan's Irish Quarterly, the first ever effort to create an Irish American magazine.

Though it only ran three or four issues or so back in 1984, the Quarterly was an incredible breakthrough. It was a glossy Irish American publication which focused heavily on contemporary issues such as the Troubles in Northern Ireland, as well as art, poetry, culture and humor. It was the direct opposite of the paddywhackery so often found in Irish publications at the time.

The second issue in particular has become famous. It featured an African American on the cover and traced the cultural and political linkages between the Irish and blacks when they were both slum dwellers in cities like New York. It was brave new journalism for Irish America.

Callahan gave a voice to Irish American writers on Irish themes and was enormously successful in creating a new awareness about Ireland among a new generation of Irish Americans.

Callahan also published the Big Book of Irish American Culture, which was a magnificent compendium of all the great Irish American artistic achievements over the ages.

An accomplished poet and writer, Callahan was immersed in the Irish scene in California for many decades and was always a progressive voice for change. He realized long before many others that the IRA hunger strikes in 1981 were ushering a new era into life.

He was also a rascal who liked nothing better than to get up the nose of local and international big wigs.

When the Queen came to San Francisco in 1984 Callahan and cartoonist Dan O'Neill created the "Irish Republican Navy." They sailed out into San Francisco Bay and loosed a few box loads of dead kippers into the waters close to the Royal Yacht hoping to attract flocks of seagulls who would then, umm, defecate all over the Queen's boat.

When Princess Margaret came to town shortly after calling the Irish "pigs" during a conversation in Chicago, Callahan was one of the ringleaders who brought a few piglets into the city center and released them in front of the world's press. He will be missed.

Why Dodd Backs Obama

SENATOR Chris Dodd's endorsement on Tuesday of Senator Barack Obama is no surprise given the close relationship the two built up on the campaign trail.

The Irish American senator from Connecticut also has a weather eye on the future, and Obama is certainly the "it" choice given the poll numbers.

Dodd, like many Democratic politicians, also had a mixed relationship with the Clintons. Back when Dodd was Democratic National Committee chairman a fundraising scandal left him exposed, and the Clintons left him out to dry.

Dodd's backing marks yet another leading Irish American politician signing up for Obama, joining Senators Edward Kennedy, John Kerry and Pat Leahy.

We can expect John Edwards to join in the endorsement for Obama this week also. At this stage it just looks like a better bet. Time will tell if it is.