Irish American Heritage Month Celebrations

President John F. Kennedy to be honored : Local Irish immigrant activist to be given prestigious “Friend of Ireland Award”

          Keeping with tradition, President Obama proclaimed March as Irish American Heritage Month.

          Consequently, on Saturday, March 24th, the largest and most prestigious organization of Irish Americans in the USA and in the metropolitan Washington, DC area, the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH), will hold their three traditional Irish American Heritage Month celebrations at Arlington National Cemetery.  Kevin Conmy, Deputy Chief of Mission, will represent the Embassy of Ireland. 

Members of the public are invited to attend and participate.

1.  Wreath Laying at President Kennedy’s Grave (12:15 pm)

          Continuing an over three-decade long tradition, the John F. Kennedy AOH Division from Prince George’s County will lay a wreath at President Kennedy’s grave.  He is honored as the first Irish Catholic president and the only US President to be a member of the Hibernians.  He joined the Hibernians in Washington, DC in 1947 and was a member until the day he died.            The wreath will be laid by John E. McInerney (Largo, MD), President of the John F. Kennedy Division of Prince George’s County.  He will be assisted by Alex O’Brien, age 8, a third grade student at Wade Elementary School in Waldorf, MD.  Alex is the son of Steve and Pam O’Brien of Waldorf.  Father John Hurley of Saint Matthew’s Cathedral will offer the prayers.  At the ceremonies Barry Hickey of Mitchellville, MD and Shane Connolly of Bowie, MD will be the flag bearers.  The bagpiper will be Hal Cummings of Annapolis, MD.


2.  “Friend of Ireland Award” honoring Geri Garvey, the Administrator of the Irish Apostolate USA (1:00 pm)

          Immediately after laying the wreath at Kennedy’s grave, participants and guests will drive up the hill to the Arlington House (Custis Lee Mansion) for the annual AOH “Friend of Ireland Award” ceremonies.  The Embassy of Ireland will send a representative.

          This year’s award will be presented to Mrs. Geri Garvey of Silver Spring, Maryland.  As the Administrator of the Irish Apostolate USA since 2005, Mrs. Garvey has been engaging many of the AOH/LAOH Divisions of the Ancient Order of Hibernians and Ladies LAOH in Maryland and Washington, DC regarding immigration reform and why it is important for the Irish-American community to support some of the Irish emigrants who are without status. Mrs. Garvey has also been working with members of the AOH/LAOH in the Baltimore area who provide a welcome to the Irish emigrants and assist them in getting settled. In Ocean City, she works closely with Pat and Rick Fairbend and local AOH/LAOH volunteers who assist the Irish students coming to the USA in the summer under the J-1 visa program.

The Irish Apostolate USA is an umbrella organization for the other Irish Immigration Pastoral and Outreach Centers.  They collaborate with the Irish Bishops Conference, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Irish government, other Catholic organizations, and other immigration entities.

The Irish Immigration Pastoral Centers are located in Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco. The Outreach Centers and Volunteer Networks are located in New York, Seattle, San Diego, Milwaukee, Boston and Ocean City, Maryland.


3.  Shamrocks for George Washington’s Adopted Grandson

          With Irish bagpipes playing, fresh shamrocks from the Irish Embassy will be placed at the grave of President George Washington’s adopted grandson, George Washington Parke Custis immediately after the award ceremony.  Custis, father-in-law of Robert E. Lee, was a leading advocate of Irish freedom in the early part of the 19th century.  He was actively involved in Irish American affairs in Washington before his death in 1857.

Before he died, Custis wished aloud that someday a honest Irishman would come by and place a shamrock on his grave and say, “God bless him.”  For over 50 years, the Hibernians in the Nation’s Capital have fulfilled his wish.



Assembly Point for the Arlington Cemetery Ceremonies

          Those who are attending the March 24th ceremonies need to assemble between 11:30 am and 12:10 pm outside the main gate of Arlington National Cemetery.  After crossing the Arlington Bridge, you will see the cars lined up on the right beyond security.  Tell security you are attending the Hibernian ceremonies.  They will let you in.

          At 12:15 pm SHARP, the gates will be opened for our cars to drive as a group up to President Kennedy’s grave.  After the wreath laying ceremony at Kennedy’s grave, we will drive up the hill to Arlington House (Custis Lee Mansion) for further Saint Patrick’s Day ceremonies.  Based on past experience, allow yourself extra time because of security and slow traffic.  

For last minute questions on Saturday, call John McInerney at 202-213-2055.

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