The Ancient Order of Hibernians is America’s oldest Irish Catholic Fraternal Organization founded concurrently in the coal-mining region of Pennsylvania and New York City in May,1836. The Order can trace its roots back to a series of similar societies that existed in Ireland for more than 300 years. Today the AOH exists in America, Canada, Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland, however, while the organizations share a common thread, the American AOH is a separate and much larger organization.
The early Irish societies were born of a need in the mid-fifteen hundreds to protect the welfare of fellow Irish Catholics, and especially the clergy who risked immediate death to keep the Catholic Faith alive in occupied Ireland after the Penal Laws of 1691. These various secret societies were formed across the country to aid and comfort their people by whatever means was available. Similarly, the AOH in America was founded at New York’s St. James Church on May 4,1836 by men emulating these Irish societies, to protect the clergy and churches from the violent American Nativists who attacked Irish Catholic immigrants and Church property. At the same time the vast influx of Irish Immigrants fleeing Ireland’s Great Hunger in the late 1840′s, prompted a growth in many Irish societies in the USA – the largest of which was, and continues to be, the AOH.
Active across the United States, The Order seeks to aid the newly arrived Irish, both socially and economically. The many Divisions and club facilities located throughout the U.S. have traditionally been among the first to welcome new Irish immigrants. Here, the Irish culture — art, dance, music, and sports are fostered and preserved. The newcomers can meet some of ‘their own’ and are introduced to the social atmosphere of the Irish-American community. the AOH has been at the forefront for issues concerning the Irish, such as; Immigration Reform; economic Incentives both here and in Ireland; the human rights issues addressed in the MacBride Legislation; Right-To-Life; and a peaceful and just solution to the issues that divide Ireland.
The Rev. James T. O’Reilly Division Eight Ancient Order of Hibernians
The Rev. James T. O’Reilly OSA Division Eight AOH in Lawrence, Massachusetts was founded in November 1871, and for the past 148 years has helped preserve Irish culture, history and traditions in a multifaceted way. The talents of its members have been recognized beyond the borders of the Lawrence area. The Men’s Division has produced two National Presidents, and the Ladies Division one. In addition to these three National Presidents, three members have served as National Directors of the Order. Several members have gone on to serve in elected and appointed positions on the State and County Boards.
Division 8 locally has been involved in a host of community endeavors and has been supportive of a many charitable cause. The Division yearly hosts numerous social events and activities, and has scholarship opportunities for the children of members, and in some cases grandchildren of members on the high school and college level, including a scholarship for study in Ireland.
The Division has developed and assists in maintaining a collection of over 15,000 Irish books, media and memorabilia that is housed at the South Lawrence Library in Lawrence. This collection is one of the largest Irish Collections on the east coast of the United States. The Division has partnered in many cultural endeavors with the New England Irish Cultural Center in Canton, MA; the Burns Library at Boston College and the Maine Irish Heritage Center in Portland Maine.
Locally, Division 8 AOH meets at the Claddagh Pub and Restaurant,399 Canal St in Lawrence on the second Wednesday of each month except for July and August. Membership is open to those who are 16 years of age or older; Irish by birth, descent or adoption, and who are practicing Catholics.
For an application please write to PO Box 1407, Lawrence, MA or email: firstname.lastname@example.org