Elmira Hibernians relish busy season - Catholic Courier

Elmira Hibernians relish busy season

Several activities are coming up for the Ancient Order of Hibernians in Elmira, and that can only mean one thing: St. Patrick’s Day is close at hand.

For starters, the annual Corporate Communion Mass for the AOH’s Msgr. John J. Lee Division No. 1 will take place Sunday, March 13. The liturgy is set for 9:15 a.m. at Ss. Peter and Paul Church — the Hibernians’ home church due to Ss. Peter and Paul’s distinction as Elmira’s first parish for Irish immigrants.

According to longtime division member John O’Herron, the Corporate Communion Mass typically draws hundreds of Hibernians from a 50-mile radius and is followed by a breakfast and general meeting. This year the meeting will take place at the Holiday Inn in Elmira.

"It’s our biggest event," O’Herron said, noting that the Corporate Communion is the only Hibernian activity all year that stipulates mandatory attendance.

On St. Patrick’s Day itself, Bishop Matthew H. Clark will be in Elmira to celebrate an annual Mass honoring the patron saint of Ireland. The March 17 liturgy will begin at St. Patrick Church at 11 a.m. and is open to the public. O’Herron noted that several priests typically join in the Mass along with many local Hibernians who form an honor guard. This will mark the second time in recent years Bishop Clark has been a part of local St. Patrick’s Day activities: In 2007 he presided over the Hibernians’ Corporate Communion liturgy.

The AOH also is planning its annual Irish Road Show on Saturday, March 19, at the Chemung County Nursing Facility.

"We’ve done it for close to 30 years," said O’Herron, adding that participants generally include "anybody that has any talent — singers, storytellers, Irish step dancers." He added that the Hibernians also assume the responsibility of transporting residents to and from their rooms.

O’Herron acknowledged that mid-March marks the busiest and most important stretch of the year for his fellow Hibernians.

"This is the time we look forward to," he remarked, adding that in his role as the AOH’s New York state District 7 director, he also was due to attend St. Patrick’s Day parades in Binghamton on March 5 and in Hornell on March 12.

The Ancient Order of Hibernians was founded in New York City in 1836. Many Hibernian groups in the United States were subsequently formed as a response to anti-Catholicism during a period when the Irish immigrant population was accelerating due to the potato famine in Ireland. Today, the AOH continues to advocate for political, social and religious causes on behalf of American Irish Catholics while also providing education to the public about Irish heritage.

Groups of Hibernians have existed in Elmira since the 1800s. Msgr. John J. Lee Division No. 1 was founded in 1953, and it currently boasts a membership in excess of 400. Its home is the Hibernian Center, located at 701 Kinyon St. on the city’s south side. In addition to its St. Patrick’s Day activities, the local AOH has a profound charitable presence in the Chemung County area, performing fundraising activities for worthy causes all year long.

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