It was Gaelic Mass day last Saturday as viewers from as far away as Texas, California, and Ireland itself joined Hibernians wearing sashes and medallions, Irish community groups, Irish speakers, and parishioners for a Mass said in Irish by Father Brendan Fitzgerald at St. Barnabas in Woodlawn on October 2. 

Bronx County AOH's annual Gaelic Mass was again a national Hibernian event carried live via the parish Facebook and AOH YouTube.

This year, the Gaelic Mass included a special remembrance of the 10 Irishmen who gave their lives on the hunger strike which ended on October 3, 1981. 

A press release from the Bronx AOH reported: “The day began with an announcement by County Legislator David Tubiolo that Westchester had officially declared Gaelic Mass Day in a proclamation which memorialized the 1981 hunger strikers, and the Irish Mass rocks where outlawed Masses had been said in secret by outlawed priests, under English Penal Laws in Ireland.

"Booklets containing Irish English translations of the prayers were handed out to those coming into St. Barnabas, or downloaded by viewers on Facebook. These booklets allowed everyone to follow the prayers in English as they listened to the Irish words.

“The ceremony began with pipers Dermot Moore, Patrick O'Hara, John McManus, and Roger Slattery leading Fitzgerald and Hibernians into the church.

"Among Hibernians present were New York State President John Manning, District 4 director Denis Grogan, past national immigration chair Dan Dennehy, and LAOH New York State Freedom for All Ireland chair Joan Moore.

“A special music program in Irish was provided by the Dawn Doherty Academy of Irish music with performers including  Rachel Cummins, Lauren Tuffy, Siena O’Brien, Lily Kenny, Maureen Rutledge, Jimmy Grady, Bridget Ferry, Emer Moylan, Jenna Byrne, Maggie Feehan, Molly Henry, and Jane Quinn.

"Readings in Irish were done by Irish Deputy Consul General Seán Ó hAodha and Caoimhe Forde of the Emerald Isle Immigration Center.

“Local Irish community groups supporting the Gaelic Mass included the Aisling Irish Center, Emerald Isle Immigration Center, Brooklyn Irish Club, and, of course, St. Barnabas parish. 

“In his sermon, Father Fitzgerald said, ‘Today we are remembering the hunger strikers whose lives and sacrifices are so dear in our memories…we are also celebrating more than a language and culture. We are celebrating a tremendous gift of faith, handed down by generations who paid a price and suffered so that we could know this gift. 

“’Our faith and Irish culture are so interwoven that without God we would have to remake how we say many things in Irish. Today we  also acknowledge the heroic sacrifice of our ancestors who gathered at Mass rocks deep in the woods or forests, putting their lives on the line simply to hear Mass in their own language in defiance of Penal Laws.’

“Newly elected Bronx County officers were installed by State President John Manning including President Martin Galvin, Vice President Bob Nolan, Treasurer Bob Cleary, Chair Standing Committee Jim O’Farrell, Financial Secretary Sean McCarthy, Marshal Tim O’Donoghue, and Sentinel Jack McCarrick. 

“Galvin said, ‘Gaelic Mass day has gone from a local Bronx AOH event to become a national event with AOH members across the country wanting to be a part of it. The parish, AOH, and LAOH nationally, Irish government, local Irish community groups, Irish language clubs, and musicians volunteered help. 

"This year, coinciding with the 40th anniversary, it was fitting to remember the 1981 hunger strikers and their great legacy, a small part of which was inspiring a new impetus for the Irish language.’” 

You can watch back on the Gaelic Mass hosted at St. Barnabas Church on Saturday, October 2 here:

*This column first appeared in the October 6 edition of the weekly Irish Voice newspaper, sister publication to IrishCentral.

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