After 10 years with Elmira’s Ancient Order of Hibernians, Matt McAneney now enjoys a Hibernian connection without filling his gas tank quite as often.
McAneney serves as president of the first-year Sons Of Ireland, Division 1, Steuben County. The new Hibernian group held its initiation ceremony on Oct. 25, 2006, and membership is “over 40 guys strong,” according to McAneney.
This marks Steuben County’s first AOH group. Several members such as McAneney have branched off from the Elmira group; many others are first-time Hibernians.
“We finally had enough people and said ‘why don’t we do it ourselves and save all that traveling?'” McAneney said. “We’re excited; there’s a lot of interest. It’s going really well.”
He emphasized that the Elmira Hibernians have been very supportive of the new group, with many attending the initiation ceremony.
“We couldn’t have done it without them. Our success is definitely a result of what the members of the Elmira division have done for us,” McAneney said.
The Steuben Hibernians meet on the first Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Knights of Columbus hall on Main Street in Hornell. Most members also are aligned with Our Lady of the Valley Parish, including such notable figures as Father Patrick Van Durme, pastor, and Shawn Hogan, longtime mayor of Hornell.
“It connects two things that we share and feel proud of — our Catholic faith and our Irish roots,” Father Van Durme said of the Hibernians.
Along with promoting Irish-American culture, AOH is vehement about being active in its faith.
“To me that’s very important. It helps me re-evaluate where I am as a Catholic,” McAneney said. “The Hibernians set themselves apart. I want people to know that if they’re joining, they’re a practicing Catholic — not just an Irish person who says they’re practicing.”
McAneney is a guidance counselor at Alfred-Almond High School. He credits Steve Donlon, an Alfred-Almond social studies teacher, for giving the “final push” to get the Hibernians going. And Father Van Durme noted that McAneney’s father, Bernie, was a key organizer as well. (There are a total of four McAneneys in the Steuben Hibernians: Matt’s brothers, Jerry and John, also belong.)
Among the group’s goals are to become more involved with the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade in Hornell; plan a Corporate Communion liturgy that would involve mandatory Mass attendance for all members; take part in such events as festivals and golf tournaments; and provide financial help for St. Ann’s School in Hornell, Our Lady of the Valley Parish and other local entities.
“We’re looking forward to making a difference in the community,” McAneney stated. “We hope to be an organization that people can turn to, Irish or not. We have the interest and the manpower — now we need the money.”
McAneney observed that many Hibernians have dual memberships in the Knights of Columbus.
“I think we can only help each other,” he said.
Father Van Durme added that the Hibernians “are looking for needs that are not being met, or areas that are looking for support. They certainly do not want to compete with other groups, but more find new ways to build up the whole community and the area.”
The pastor noted that he is a Knight of Columbus as well, and also a member of the local Sons of Italy. He said all these fraternal groups “bring something different to the community and offer many avenues of service to those involved.”