Tag Archives: catholic church

An Irish shrine in the heart of Baltimore

The Irish Railroad Workers Museum and Shrine at 918 Lemon St. in Baltimore.

I visited The Irish Railroad Workers Museum and Shrine at the edge of downtown Baltimore.

The museum is dedicated to the tens of thousands of Irish who began immigrating to the city during the Great Famine and continued to the middle of the 20th century. Many worked at the nearby Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.

The museum is contained within two row houses typical of the West Baltimore neighborhood of the period. There is a nice introductory video narrated by Martin O’Malley, former Baltimore mayor (1999-2007) and Maryland governor (2007-2015) in the museum welcome center, which also contains artifacts from the nearby St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church (now a Baptist worship space) and B&O rail yards. The adjoining house is restored as a typical workers’s home of the period.

The Memorial Garden in the rear features the shrine mural by artist Wayne Nield. The image depicts three phases of the Irish experience: the famine of the 1840s (right), the treacherous voyage across the Atlantic (center) and the new life in America (left), where the predominantly rural immigrants remade themselves as city dwellers.

Museum Board Member Barry Larkin and Managing Director Luke McCusker were very friendly and informative during my visit. I hope to return soon.

The shrine mural by Wayne Nield.

Catholicism is still Ireland’s largest religion, but …

… the numbers of faithful keep on falling, according to 2016 Census data released 12 October. A few of the details:

  • Catholics were 78.3 percent of the population in April 2016, compared to 84.4 percent five years earlier.
  • The percentage of Catholics in Ireland peaked in 1961 at 94.9 percent.
  • Ireland’s 3,729,115 Catholics in 2016 was 132,220 fewer than 2011, while the nation’s total population grew by 173,613.
  • People born outside of Ireland were 12 percent of the country’s total Catholic population, the same as 2011. It was 7.2 percent in 2002.
  • The average age of Catholics was 38.2, slightly older than the general population 37.4.

These numbers require more exploration and context. Growing secularism and diversity are part of the reason. Church scandals are another. One place to start is this 2013 piece by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin:

A Post-Catholic Ireland?: Renewing the Irish church from within

The causes of the crisis lie within the church itself. Much of the heritage of Catholic-dominated Ireland still entraps us from being free witnesses to the Christian message within a secular society that is seeking meaning. It is not a time to be lamenting; it is a time to be rising to the challenge with courage and Christian enthusiasm.

The long road from Chesterton’s 1932 Catholic Dublin

“The Ireland celebrated by G.K. Chesterton in his ‘Christendom in Dublin’ is no more.”

That’s the opening sentence of John P. McCarthy’s analysis of the Catholic Church in Ireland, which appears in the 16 March issue of The Catholic World Report. It’s a sober, thoughtful, well-reasoned piece.

Those who know Chesterton’s book, and perhaps–like myself–have even romanticized the 1932 Eucharistic Congress celebrated within its 99 pages, will immediately see the power of McCarthy’s lede. The professor emeritus of History and former director of the Institute of Irish Studies at Fordham University methodically assesses more than 80 years of change in the Irish Church, sans the anti-Catholic undercurrents of most contemporary journalistic accounts.

The 1932 Eucharistic Congress in Dublin celebrated by C. K. Chesterton.

Here are three extended passages, including McCarthy’s conclusion:

What had happened to weaken the religious enthusiasm of so many Irish? Obviously a very major factor in distracting young minds from religious concerns was the substantial economic modernization and prosperity that had come to Ireland beginning in the 1960s. … A less-acknowledged explanation of the current sparsity of religious vocations in contrast to the abundance in the mid-20th century might be the mixed motives of many of the earlier ones. Economic considerations could have been as much a factor as religious devotion, especially on the part of aspirants’ families.

***

Many rushed to attribute the decline in religious faith among many Irish as a reaction to the notorious clerical scandals that came to light in the 1990s, many of which had in fact occurred in earlier decades. … [T]here seems to have been a disproportionately large number in the second half of the past century—especially in Ireland. A possible explanation might be in the number of faulty vocations mentioned earlier. Admittedly only a small percentage of the total clergy were involved, although that scarcely excuses it.

***

Hopefully, a Church exercising a dedicated minority position might prove to be more vital than a Church that had rested on unchallenged—but probably insincere—laurels from public officials or the media. A cynic might also suggest that the intensity of Irish Catholicism in the past century might have been prompted less by religious devotion than by nationalism. Fear and repression of Catholicism had been central to the British control of Ireland, and Irish separatism was reinforced by Catholicism. One hopes and prays, even if it is a minority position and one subject to harassment, that “the faith of our fathers” will live again in Ireland.

One hundred years…and counting

Sunday, 24 April marked the “calendar centenary” of the start of the 1916 Easter Rising, though commemorations of the historical event have been on for more than a month. Sunday also was Census Day in Ireland.

Marking the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising on 24 April 2016...Census Day in Ireland. Photo courtesy of Sr. Cathy Cahill.

Crowds outside the General Post Office in Dublin commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising. 24 April 2016 also was Census Day in Ireland. Photo courtesy of Sr. Cathy Cahill.

The Irish Independent reports:

[F]amilies and individuals all over the country will fill out their census forms. Many will ponder whether they still consider themselves Catholic, and whether they should claim to be able to speak Irish – even if they can only say “slán” and “go raibh maith agat“. …

Despite the recession exodus, the population is still expected to show a five-year increase … to more than 4.6 million. … With a continuing high birth rate also making up for emigration losses, the population increase is now running at 25,000 per year. …

[The] census is likely to show a more cosmopolitan population with a diverse mix of nationalities and creeds. Ireland’s Islamic population has grown tenfold in two decades to more than 50,000 and this trend is likely to be confirmed. At the last census, 3.8 million people still classified themselves as Catholic, but some commentators believe the census should ask how often they attend Mass. …

Even 10 years ago, the possibility of same-sex marriage in Ireland seemed unthinkable, but it has been legalized by a popular vote, against the wishes of the Catholic hierarchy.

A census has been conducted in Ireland since 1821, though original documentation from many of those early surveys has been destroyed by accident or on purpose. The most popular and intact surviving censuses are the household returns and ancillary records for 1901 and 1911. The State has taken a count every five years since 1951.

The Central Statistics Office says it will release the first results of the 2016 Census to the public in July.

The Irish people commemorated the 1916 Rising on 24 April, then went home and completed their census forms. Photo courtesy of Sr. Cathy Cahill.

The Irish people commemorated the 1916 Rising on 24 April, then went home and completed their census forms. Photo courtesy of Sr. Cathy Cahill.

Best of the Blog, 2015

This is my third annual “Best of the Blog” (BOB, as my wife calls it), a look at some of the most important news stories, historical anniversaries and personal favorite posts of the past year. The items are not numbered, so as to avoid the appearance of rank. Most links are to my own posts, but a few are to outside websites.

Enjoy. Thanks for supporting the blog. And Happy New Year!

  • Four years into the “Decade of Centenaries,” 2015 proved that even as Ireland remembers its past, Ireland is not bound by its past. This was most dramatically demonstrated in May as Irish voters enshrined same-sex marriage rights in the Republic’s constitution, becoming the world’s first nation to give such approval through popular referendum. The outcome prompted Catholic Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin to comment: “The Church needs a reality check right across the board, to look at the things we are doing well and look at the areas where we need to say, have we drifted away completely from young people?”
  • Other long-standing Irish institutions also changed in 2015. Clerys, a landmark department store on O’Connell Street in Dublin, closed in June after 162 years in business. … In August, Aer Lingus was acquired by British Airways owner IAG for €1.5 billion after nearly 80 years of state ownership.
  • The erosion of the Irish language continued at “a faster rate than was predicted” by a 2007 study and “demands urgent intervention,” a government agency reported in an update this year.
  • 2015 was the 150th anniversary of the birth of William Butler Yeats. His poem, “The Lake Isle of Innisfree,” was celebrated during the year. And, of course, “Easter, 1916.”
  • The Republic’s official remembrance of the Easter Rising began in August with a commemorative re-enactment of the funeral of Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa. The original Dublin funeral of the Fenian leader, who died in New York, set the stage for the Rising eight months later. Pádraic Pearse’s oration at Rossa’ graveside became a call to arms that continues to inspire Irish patriots. One of my Kerry relatives kept a copy of an August 1933 reprint of the speech, cut from the pages of The Gaelic American.
  • I also reflected on my copy of a 1953 St. Patrick’s Day greeting from another Kerry relation.
  • In Northern Ireland, the International Fund for Ireland launched a new “Community Consolidation-Peace Consolidation” strategy for 2016-2020 focused on removing some of the more than 100 “peace walls” that separate Catholic and Protestant communities. “We have a role to take risks that governments can’t take,” IFI Chairman Dr. Adrian Johnston said during a September briefing at the Embassy of Ireland in Washington, D.C. … But a new poll showed that support for removing the physical barriers has dropped to 49 percent, compared to 58 percent in 2012.
  • The British and Irish governments announced a new political accord to overcome various crises in the North. … Seventeen years on from the historic 1998 Good Friday Agreement, former U.S. Senator George Mitchell told a Washington audience the peace talks got off to “a very rocky start” due to the long history of mistrust in Northern Ireland and “no habit of listening to the other side.”
  • An RTÉ/BBC poll revealed two-thirds of respondents living in the Republic favor political reunification of the island within their lifetime, while just under one third of those surveyed in the North share the view. … In what was described as a “rogue action,” the Republic’s tricolour flag flew over Stormont for a few hours in June.
  • Irish Minister for Diaspora Affairs Jimmy Deenihan, speaking at the  Embassy of Ireland in Washington, announced “a new strategy to improve Ireland’s connection with the diaspora.”
  • More historical records continued to be made available in 2015 for online inspection, including:

Dublin Metropolitan Police Detective Department’s “Movement of Extremists” reports leading up to the Rising, held at the Irish National Archives;

Long-awaited Catholic parish records, held by the National Library of Ireland; and

Fenian Brotherhood records and O’Donovan Rossa’s personal papers, held by The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

River Shannon by Therea M. Quirk.

Departed in 2015:

  • Six college students, five from Ireland and one holding Irish and U.S. citizenship, were killed 16 June in Berkeley, California, when the fifth floor apartment balcony where they were partying collapsed and plunged them 50 feet to the ground.
  • Dublin-born actress Maureen O’Hara, who co-stared with John Wayne in the 1952 screen hit, “The Quiet Man,” died at 95. … More than three dozen other notable Irish and Irish American deaths from the arts, sports and politics are listed here.

From the Archive:

How a 19th century anti-Irish Catholic voting law helped unseat modern Bangladeshi Muslim mayor near London

Earlier this year an English judge used an obscure section of 19th century election law to unseat the mayor of Tower Hamlets, a borough of London.

The Guardian tells how the term “undue spiritual influence” was passed down from the 1880s, when it was intended “specifically to constrain the influence of the Roman Catholic clergy on what the English establishment took to be the ignorant and impressionable minds of the Irish proletariat,” according to the story.

There’s great background here on the 1872-1892 period in Ireland.

In April, a modern judge was “entirely unashamed to use a law that was developed to subdue Irish Roman Catholics and then apply it to a contemporary religious minority that is suffering from a very similar brew of racism and hostility to what is seen as their foreign religious practises, i.e. Islam.”

Read the story.

St. Patrick’s Church in London’s Soho Square

StPatLondon

LONDON — Irish Catholicism is hardly the first thing that comes to mind when considering the historic sweep of this great city of the world. But it holds a small corner of Soho.

I wanted to visit St. Patrick’s Catholic Church here, as I have in other cities. Now I have.

“St Patrick’s is the first Church in England, at least since the Reformation, dedicated to St Patrick,” according to this parish history. “It was also one of the first Catholic parish Churches established after the passing of the Catholic Relief Acts of 1778 and 1791, which brought freedom of teaching and worship.”

St. Patrick and the sanctuary.

St. Patrick and the sanctuary.

 

 

Catholic parish records now available online

Catholic parish records held by the National Library of Ireland are finally available online. The Irish Times said:

These parish register records are considered the single most important source of information on Irish family history prior to the 1901 census. Dating from the 1740s to the 1880s, they cover 1,086 parishes throughout the island of Ireland, and consist primarily of baptismal and marriage records.

Here’s more background on the project from NLI. Or, start searching.

In a helpful blog post, Kay Caball at My Kerry Ancestors warns that because the records are not indexed researchers should have some idea of the parish, date and even month they are looking for. “You can’t just pop someone’s name in and hope that all will be revealed.”

catholic-parish-registers

Post-referendum reflections on Irish Catholicism

There’s a lot of analysis about Ireland’s successful same-sex marriage referendum and the legacy of the Catholic Church: Here’s a sampling, starting with perhaps the most widely quoted post-election remark.

“The Church needs a reality check right across the board, to look at the things we are doing well and look at the areas where we need to say, have we drifted away completely from young people?” — Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin told RTE.

“The Joyful Death of Catholic Ireland,” by James Matthew Wilson in Crisis Magazine, The Voice for the Faithful Catholic Laity.

The reason the Irish—as Irish—are celebrating is that they have with this referendum delivered a decisive and final blow to their venerable image as a Catholic nation. They have taken their vengeance on the Church. They must relish the unshackling; they must love the taste of blood. But, finally, they take joy in becoming what, it seems, they were always meant to become. An unexceptional country floating somewhere in the waters off a continent that has long since entered into cultural decline, demographic winter, and the petty and perpetual discontents that come free of charge to every people that lives for nothing much in particular.

“Gay vote shows it’s not your grandfather’s Ireland any more,” By Niall O’Down in Irish Central.

Much of the mainstream media in the US missed … the death of monochrome, one holy and Catholic Ireland that passed away at least a decade or so ago and the new multi-ethnic ethos that prevails.

“Ireland has said ‘yes’ to gay marriage and ‘no’ to Catholicism,” by The Telegraph.

The Irish referendum on gay marriage was about more than just gay marriage. It was a politically trendy, media backed, well financed howl of rage against Catholicism.

“Gay Marriage in Ireland Isn’t a ‘No’ to Catholicism,” by Time.

Ireland’s historic decision to pass gay marriage by popular vote Saturday has led many to question the strength of the Catholic Church in the land of St. Patrick. For example, The Telegraph’s Tim Stanley wrote that Ireland’s “yes” to gay marriage was a “no” to Catholicism. But such simplistic reductions miss the complex and evolving Catholic worldview on civil gay marriage. … In fact, many who voted “yes” on gay marriage did so because of their faith, not in spite of it.

“Same-sex marriage vote an ‘unmitigated disaster’ for Church,” opinion column in The Irish Times that quotes several members of the liberal, pro-“Yes” Association of Catholic Priests.

“Catholic Church Ponders Future After Same-Sex Marriage Vote in Ireland,” by The New York Times.

Ireland’s Catholic Church records to go online summer 2015

Great news for genealogists and historians who can’t get to Ireland: the National Library of Ireland is digitizing all Catholic Church records in Ireland. They will be available by summer 2015, for free.

“The records are considered the single most important source of information on Irish family history prior to the 1901 Census.  Dating from the 1740s to the 1880s, they cover 1,091 parishes throughout Ireland, and consist primarily of baptismal and marriage records,” NLI said in a statement.

The National Diaspora Programme, Ireland Reaching Out (Ireland XO), has welcomed making the resources available online without charge, IrishCentral reported. Another article in Crux was brought to my attention by the lovely Angie Drobnic Holan.