The Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH), America’s oldest Irish Catholic Fraternal Organization, is inviting you to join to preserve the longstanding values of the Irish American community.

Recently, a political cartoon showed a funeral chapel with a coffin at the front of the room with row upon row of empty chairs except for two mourners in attendance. At the back of the room is a couple with a woman whispering behind her hand, "He had over 2000 Facebook friends; I was expecting a bigger turnout."

Sadly, as is often the case, "Many's the truth said in jest."

The Surgeon General recently issued an advisory highlighting the alarming epidemic of loneliness and isolation in the United States, declaring it a public health crisis and urging immediate action. 

Meanwhile, it is an intriguing oxymoron that the Internet and social media have opened a vast world of connections while insulating us from the people in our neighborhoods. Sadly, instead of opening new worlds, social media has often degraded into echo chambers, further exacerbating the insulation from our local communities. 

Residing in a purely virtual world is specifically a threat to young people; they may be tech-savvy "digital natives" but sometimes lack the soft skills, such as effective communication, empathy, collaboration, and interpersonal relationships, that are vital for personal and professional success.

The power of real-life social connections cannot be understated in mitigating these risks.

Human interaction has always been a strength of the Irish American community; our very survival as a heritage speaks to the power of friendship, unity, and Christian charity, the motto of the Ancient Order of Hibernians.

As strangers, often unwanted, in a strange land, Irish people sought out personal contact through organizations like the Ancient Order of Hibernians, first for protection from the ravages of nativism and then to provide mutual assistance.

As we emerge from the worst of the pandemic, the Ancient Order of Hibernians is still assessing the damage that the shutdowns had on the Irish American community. We saw generational businesses that were the centers of their community where christenings were celebrated and the departed commemorated lost. We have noticed the gaps in our St. Patrick's Day parade because some groups, as one parade organizer euphemistically put it, have "moved on."

However, the greatest risk we face is losing our greatest strength, our sense of community. We should not look forward to a society where people have 2,000 virtual friends and not one real one.

The many AOH Divisions and club facilities located throughout the US serve as the Irish American social and cultural hubs of their communities. They provide a platform for Irish Americans to connect and celebrate their shared heritage while supporting various charitable and community initiatives in their broader community.

AOH Divisions organize cultural events, fundraisers, and educational programs to foster a sense of community among members and promote Irish traditions while also advocating for the interests of the Irish American community and supporting closer US - Irish relations.

Through their activities, AOH Divisions keep the traditions of Irish heritage alive in the US, while serving as a bridge between Ireland and the diaspora, all while forging lasting personal friendships.

If you are interested in making a real difference beyond a hashtag in your community, if you want to replace 'LOL' with real craic, the Hibernians invite you to join us.

You can learn more about the Ancient Order of Hibernians on its website, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube pages. You can also contact the AOH via this page.