There was plenty of attention last year about the 50th anniversaries of John F. Kennedy’s 1963 trip to Ireland and assassination in Dallas. Today I was abruptly reminded of the later event.
My wife (@AngieHolan) and I attended the Saturday vigil Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, D.C. I was walking up the center aisle to receive Holy Communion when I noticed the marble plaque on the floor just before the sanctuary:
“…People come to the cathedral from across the country and around the world, with many wanting to stand at that very spot,” Catholic News Service reported last year. I hope to visit the JFK gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery in the near future.
Also worth noting at the Cathedral in terms of Irish America is the lunette mural above the main entrance. It’s titled “Saintly and Eminent Personages of the Americas.”
Among the figures depicted on the mural are The Most Reverend John Carroll, the first bishop and archbishop in the United States and the founder of nearby Georgetown University, the nation’s oldest Catholic university; and James Cardinal Gibbons, the first cardinal of Baltimore.
Carroll was from a prominent Irish-Catholic family with roots in counties Laois, Offaly and Tipperary, according to this story in Irish America. Gibbons parents were from Tourmackeady in County Mayo.
As chairman of the American Commission on Relief in Ireland, Gibbons helped lead efforts to aid Ireland during the Irish War of Independence. In this March 2, 1921, letter published in Catholic newspapers, he wrote:
I need not urge upon the Americans of Irish descent their special duty to their own flesh and blood; they have given generously to all other suffering people, they will not forget their own. … The whole Catholic church of America is most deeply indebted to the Irish people. It is not too much to expect that in every parish of our land effective means be taken to collect funds for the relief of the suffering in Ireland.
Gibbons died a few weeks later on March 24, 1921, before the end of the war and year of civil war that followed.