Guest Author - Mary Ellen Sweeney
The Ancient Order of Hibernians is an Irish-American fraternal organization founded in New York City in 1836. This was a time of great humiliation for the Irish immigrants coming to the U.S. Almost everyone has heard of the signage "No Irish Need Apply." This was no joke for those newly off the boat, and the Order that had been in existence in Ireland for 300 years started up in the U.S. where the need was apparent.
In the early 1600s, England's King Henry VIII (Remember him, the fellow with all the wives and the gout?) decreed that the Catholic faith was to be outlawed, and the priests were under risk of death if they were caught saying mass. As a result of this and the Penal Laws in Ireland, countless secret societies were formed. The AOH was among them. As ever, when neighbors are in trouble or in need, the people banded together to protect and help each other. The Ancient Order of Hibernians in America followed the same credo. It was a good thing that they had a little head start because shortly after the founding, the famine of the 1840s brought many needy Irish across in the famine ships. They were met by their brother (and sister) Hibernians and so started life in this tough New World.
The AOH is found all over the United States and now is primarily a social club, but it is still well known for its good works and exuberant celebration of St. Patrick's Day. The Irish Culture is celebrated in all its many forms: music, dance, writing, sports, and of course, parades. There are regular dances and meetings and the Hibernian Hall is a social outlet for many new immigrants and Irish-Americans with deep ties to "The Old Country."
The Order has also provided a continuing bridge with Ireland for those who are generations removed. The AOH sponsors many of the programs associated with promoting our Irish Heritage such as the IRISH WAY PROGRAM.
You may further seek admittance to the AOH---all that is asked is that you would live the Hibernian motto of: "Friendship, Unity, and Christian Charity."