b AOH ? The 'Other' Catholic Fraternal Organization -b

I began research for this article believing that there were only two Catholic fraternal organizations in the United States, the very well known, very visible Knights of Columbus, and the not so well known, Ancient Order of Hibernians. However, a quick search of the Internet disclosed a number of Catholic fraternal organizations that most Catholic men have probably never heard of, e.g. the International Order of Alhambra, the military Order of Saint Sebastian, the Catholic Knights of America, the Knights of Malta, and the Knights of Peter Claver, most of which don't have chapters or councils in this diocese. Actually, the only fraternal organizations listed in the diocesan website are the Knights of Columbus and the subject of this article, the "other" Catholic fraternal organization, the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH). The AOH is also the older of the two organizations. Founded in 1836 by Irish immigrants, the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America is the oldest Catholic lay organization in this country, predating the Knights of Columbus by nearly 50 years. Beyond the fact that both the Knights and Hibernians are Catholic fraternal organizations, there is another link between the two organizations, the young Catholic priest who founded the Knights of Columbus. Hibernians will tell you that Father Michael J. McGivney, a first generation Irish-American, was a Hibernian, who, when he founded the Knights of Columbus in 1882, introduced some of the AOH ritual and ceremony into the new organization. The Knights were founded as a fraternal benefit society that would provide insurance for the widows and orphans of its members. The Hibernians, on the other hand, were formed for much more desperate reasons. The Ancient Order of Hibernians, whose name is derived from an ancient Latin name for Ireland -- Hibernia ? is an organization that can trace its heritage back to 16th century Ireland when Catholics were persecuted, tortured and murdered for their faith. The impetus for the persecution was Catherine of Aragon's inability to produce a male heir for Henry VIII's English throne. Ireland at the time was a fiefdom of England that provided nominal allegiance to the English crown. Despite invasions, first by the Vikings, then by Normans from England, the Irish had managed to maintain, ever since the arrival of Patrick in the fifth century, a Gaelic, Catholic, non-feudal culture quite distinctive from England and the rest of Europe. The invaders had been absorbed into the Irish culture and become part of the Irish landscape. Henry Tudor (Henry VIII) started out as a Catholic king, whose denunciation of the Protestant Reformation sweeping through the European continent at the time had earned him recognition by the Papacy as the "Defender of the Faith." He was also something less than a perfect husband whose wandering eye had settled on the vivacious Anne Boleyn, one of his wife's ladies in waiting at Henry's court. The inability of Catherine to produce a male heir, and thereby guarantee Tudor succession, combined with Anne Boleyn's charms had led the lusty Henry to seek from Rome an annulment of his marriage to Catherine. When the Church refused to comply, Henry broke with the Pope, confiscated Church property in his domain, banned all Catholic clergy from his kingdom, and required his subjects in England, Scotland, and Ireland to renounce the Pope and recognize him as their spiritual sovereign on earth. He then granted himself a divorce from Catherine and married Anne Boleyn, the second of his six wives. Many Catholic English, Scots, and Irish people were martyred for their faith under Henry and his successors, but of the three peoples, the Irish proved to be the most intransigent of British subjects. Catholicism was at the core of their being, and as they failed to comply, and as England became more Protestant, English measures to eradicate the Irish Catholic presence in Ireland became more and more repressive. Protestant settlers were given huge tracts of Irish land, and penal laws disenfranchised Irish Catholics not only from the political, social, and economic life of their own country, but also from the judicial protections afforded to most British subjects. Not surprisingly, the Irish became an underground society in their own country, and secret societies with names like Ribbonmen, Whiteboys, and Defenders were organized to protect the Roman Catholic Church and its clergy. Today's AOH in America can trace its name to 1641, and its motto "Friendship, Unity, and Christian Charity" to the Defenders of 1565. When Irish immigrants first began to arrive on American shores in large numbers in the front half of the nineteenth century, they were impoverished, ragged, mostly Gaelic-speaking, and worst of all, Catholic. The United States was a Protestant country at the time, and the land of the free was a hostile environment for Catholic immigrants. Once again, Irish Catholics needed the Hibernians to defend their churches, their clergy, and their faith. Thus was formed, in New York City in 1836, the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America. The United States is no longer a Protestant country, but it is still, on occasion, hostile to our Catholic values, and even the Catholic clergy. Hibernians no longer have to protect Catholic churches and Catholic neighborhoods from assault by Protestant gangs as they did in the nineteenth century, but they still stand as a bulwark between our Faith and those who would assault it. Local AOH Divisions The Ancient Order of Hibernians, a pro-life, Catholic fraternal order has 13 divisions in Virginia. Nine of them are in the Diocese of Arlington: the St. Brendan Division in Franconia; the Father William Corby Division in Fairfax; the Cardinal Cushing Division in Annandale; the Colonel Thomas J. Cunningham Division in Ashburn; the Lt. Colonel John A. Dowd Division in Woodbridge, the Colonel John Fitzgerald Division in Arlington; the Father Edward Kelley Division in Manassas; the General Thomas F. Meagher Division in Fredericksburg; and the Father John J. Munley Division in Winchester. Membership in the AOH is open to Catholic men who are at least 16 years old, and have an Irish ancestor somewhere in their lineage. St. Brendan Division, Franconia -- Art Grimley -- 703 971 6831 Fr. William Corby Division, Fairfax -- Raymond Connelly --703 250 9048 Cardinal Cushing Division, Annandale -- Thomas Gallagher --703 979 5370 Col. Thomas J. Cunningham Division, Ashburn -- Steve Hanley -- 703 729 9126 Lt. Col John A. Dowd Division, Woodbridge -- Mike Creegan -- 703 221 4692 Col. John Fitzgerald, Arlington -- Jason Fitz-Patrick -- 703 716 2672 Fr. Edward Kelley Division -- Phil Nannery -- 703 369 7084 Gen. Thomas F. Meagher Division, Fredericksburg -- Bob Sullivan -- 540 891 0072 Fr. John J. Munley Division, Winchester -- Bro. Finbar Gallagher, TOR -- 410 675 7715

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