Hofstra University Professor Patricia Cregan Navarra, answered some questions from the Irish Voice about her Irishness

The Garden City-Mineola St. Patrick’s Day parade will step off on Sunday, March 3 at Court House and County Seat Drives, with lineup starting at noon. The post-parade celebrations will continue at the home of the Irish in Long Island, the Irish American Center in Mineola. 

One of this year’s parade aides, Hofstra University Professor Patricia Cregan Navarra, answered some questions from the Irish Voice about her Irishness.

What’s your position at Hofstra?

“I’m an adjunct associate professor of English and Writing Studies. This begins my 20th year of teaching at Hofstra.”

Is the Irish Studies program at Hofstra popular?

“Irish Studies is a popular choice for our students. Courses are always filled, with a waiting list. 

“Our courses consider Irish History, Dance, Literature, Drama, Mythology, Film, Language, Sociology, Anthropology, Music, and Political Science along with European Studies, Peace Studies, Women’s Studies.  The great majority of our students are not of Irish heritage, but they love the storytelling, Irish rock ‘n’ roll, and connect with stories of immigration and diaspora.”

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What’s your Irish background?

“I’m second generation Irish American: Inver and Tullintain (Donegal) on my mother’s side and Newry, Co. Down, and South Armagh on my father’s side.  We didn’t know our grandparents from Donegal or Down. Few of us knew my nana from Armagh; their lives as immigrants were brief.  And yet everything we have is because of everything they left behind. 

“Irish studies allow us to fill in the gaps of all we didn’t know about them, honoring something we missed but didn’t know how or why.  Today, we have a big family of cousins in Ireland, beginning in Donegal and now scattered to Dublin, Mayo, Dingle, and Dublin, and we visit back and forth.  Growing up, it was the Sunday phone call from Killybegs: sacred, brief, and expensive.  Now we text.”

What’s your dream Irish vacation?

“There are two.  One is the lottery dream, to rent three or more 17-seater buses which would meet all extended Irish American family and friends as we arrive Shannon.  We would send for our family elsewhere in Ireland (and some in Chester, U.K.) to join us and spend two or three days in Doolin, visiting the Cliffs and the Aran Islands.  Then up to Killybegs (our family) and Gleann Cholm Cille for 10 days. 

“My other Irish vacation dream is two weeks, exactly the same, with my husband and children.”

What does being a Mineola parade aide mean to you?

“When Aileen Scott said I was nominated as aide to the grand marshal at the Mineola parade, I was honored, and stunned.  It was the great wish of the late Greg Maney, dear mentor, and friend who founded the Irish Studies program at Hofstra, that we have a dynamic community partnership with the Irish American Society, to keep our heritage alive for future generations. 

“Being honored as an aide was like a nudge from above to keep going.”

Given the lack of emigration from Ireland to the U.S., how important do you think community events such as the parade are to keep the heritage alive?

“I love this question.  In a world full of noise, our children might consider their connection to this beautiful island on the Atlantic which has produced so much expression of what it is to be human in poetry, prose, drama, dance, and song.  It’s all there for them.”

What’s your favorite Irish memory?

“On the end of a dock in Killybegs, about 10 p.m. in July 1990, in something that was once called a phone booth.  I was visiting family, and calling my fiancé Paul, now husband, in Los Angeles, when he was getting up for work.  When my cousin Charles (fisherman on the rig right around us) saw that I was weepy, he said, ‘Ah, you think you are in love now.  But you’re not really in love until you have a child, because then you can never be separated.’” 

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