Hibernians uphold their mission

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IMG_0315By Claudia Mathis
Staff writer

Dave Lynch has been a member of the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) for the last 20 years. He serves as president of the 360-male member Syracuse division. “This year, we’re celebrating the 125th anniversary of being in Onondaga County,” Lynch said. “The culmination of the celebration will be the St. Patrick’s Parade.”  A fellow Hibernian, Richard Patrick Walsh, will lead the parade on March 12 as grand marshall.

Lynch said that he joined the AOH so that he could be involved in something Irish and to do charitable works.

The AOH is a Catholic, Irish-American fraternal organization. The U.S.-based AOH was founded in New York City in 1836 and traces its roots to Ireland’s AOH, which developed over 300 years ago.

The organization’s goal was to protect the church and clergy from anti-Catholic sentiment, which was rampant in the 1830s. The name was adopted by groups of Irish immigrants and the organization grew quickly during the 1840s due to the massive immigration fueled by Ireland’s Great Famine.

Today, the AOH assists its communities through charitable works and community service.

The Syracuse division of AOH helps support charitable organizations in the area and throughout the world. It fosters and promotes Irish culture through music, dance, sports, history and language.

Lynch’s group of Hibernians meets once a month to discuss Irish cultural events and Irish-related issues such as immigration and legislation to enforce the MacBride Principles, a corporate code of conduct for U.S. companies who conduct business in Northern Ireland. “I enjoy the camaraderie of the different generations of Hibernians,” commented Lynch.

The AOH’s Freedom for All Ireland Committee works for a peaceful and just resolution to the issues that divide Ireland today.    “The Hibernian motto is ‘Friendship, Unity and Christian Charity,’” said Lynch.

The Syracuse division lives out its ideals by sponsoring and helping at a number of fundraisers and cultural events. Lynch said that 50 of the members participated in the Syracuse Newspapers’ Old Newsboys Fundraiser this year, raising over $15,000. “This was the seventh year in a row that we were the leading fundraiser for the drive,” said Lynch. They donated the funds to the Toys for Christmas Bureau Give Away. The Hibernians also sponsor the Irish Christmas Appeal. The proceeds are sent to the needy in Ireland.

The men are currently working on the St. Patrick Hunger Project. It began five years ago when the members placed barrels to collect donations of food at the site of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. They have also placed the collection barrels at school and business locations. “We’ve collected enough food for 179,000 meals,” said Lynch.

The Hibernians can also be seen helping out at the annual Irish Festival and the CNY Scottish Games & Celtic Festival where they manage food booths. The men also provide gifts and the Santa Claus for the Syracuse Parks and Recreation Christmas Parties throughout the area.

Mark Kadlecik, a parishioner at St. James in Johnson City, serves as president of the men’s group of Hibernians in Binghamton. The group numbers 380 and donates its time and resources to area schools and food banks. Kadlecik said he enjoys the fellowship of the men and the good feeling he gets from helping in his community.

On March 5, the group marched in Binghamton’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade wearing  orange, white and green sashes. He said his members get together every year for a picnic in July, a golf outing in August and a turkey party in November. “It’s a good organization with good people,” Kadlecik said of the group.

Barbara Button serves as president for the Division 2 ladies’ group of Hibernians (LAOH) in Binghamton. She said that the proceeds from a recent fundraiser, a sock hop, were donated to the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse in Binghamton. Other fundraisers include pancake breakfasts and an Irish Pub Night, all held at the AOH Hall in Binghamton. “I enjoy the friendship and charity of the group,” Button said.

It is common for both men and women Hibernians to work together at the fundraisers.

Rosemary Koppel, parishioner at St. Patrick’s in Syracuse, has held the post of president of the Syracuse Division of LAOH for the last three years.

She is looking forward to attending the Syracuse St. Patrick’s Day Parade Dinner at the OnCenter on March 11 with 21 of her fellow Hibernians.

Koppel said that through her involvement with the Hibernians, she has gained a greater appreciation of her heritage and the difficulties her ancestors faced when they came to the U.S. from Ireland.

Koppel’s group of 40 women meets monthly. The members discuss the current issues of Ireland and the group historian gives a presentation on Irish ancestry. “At every meeting, we bring food items to be distributed to various food pantries,” said Koppel.

The proceeds from the group’s fundraisers are donated to such organizations as AOH National’s charities, the Syracuse Diocese Asian Apostolate and the Brady Faith Center in Syracuse.

The group’s two major fundraisers are the Irish Festival and the CNY Scottish Games & Celtic Festival. The group sells scones, coffee, tea and craft items at both festivals and supervises the children’s activities area at the Irish Festival. The women also collect children’s hats and mittens to donate to various charities.

The women Hibernians enjoy numerous social activities such as the annual Christmas party, picnics, dining out at Irish establishments and gathering at members’ homes for the completion of craftwork.

“It’s absolutely rewarding,” said Koppel of her involvement with the LOAH. “I’m with a group of like-minded people who are honoring their heritage. I know that my ancestors would be very proud of my involvement.”

Koppel welcomes new members to the group. If interested, contact her at (315) 487-5408.

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