Bishop Donal McKeown visits Irish Apostolate USA
In November 2012, I had the opportunity to get just a glimpse of the quiet, faithful work which the Irish Catholic Church is doing in one part of the USA.
I was able to spend four nights in St Barnabas Rectory which serves the Woodlawn/ McLean Avenue part of the North Bronx and South Yonkers. You know where you are when you see the signs for Rory Dolan’s pub, McKeon’s pub and copies of the Longford Leader in the shop windows! Monsignor Ed Barry and Fr Brendan Gormley – along with Fr Benjamin from India – provide a hugely well used service for this very Irish part of the NY metropolis. The schools, church and other facilities lie at the centre of this suburban community. Each weekend, nine Masses are celebrated (including one in Italian!). And on the Sunday I was there, the 10.30 family Mass was packed to capacity with many standing round the walls. The parish clearly provides a hugely important focal point for people with a range of accents!
The formidable and gracious Sr Christine Hennessy RSM has an office in the Aisling Centre and she has been a long standing and most faithful servant of both those who want to celebrate and those who find themselves in difficulties. These latter can be caused by lack of residence papers and criminal offences. And the US system tends to be tough on both offenders and those who visit them!
Father John McCarthy (a Limerick priest) came down from Boston and he was joined by Fr Kevin O’Sullivan, who is head of Catholic Charities in the New York archdiocese. And their common plea was for more clergy and religious to come from Ireland to spend at least a few years with the huge numbers of Irish people who still appreciate the quiet human and spiritual support that the faith community can offer. We may have huge challenges in our parishes in Ireland – but many from our parishes have huge needs in the USA!
Bishop Donal McKeown is a member of the Council for Emigrants of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference.