Celtic Crossings helps Catholic community

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Hundreds of years ago, the lush green island of Ireland was controlled by the British crown, which suppressed the Catholic faith brought by St. Patrick centuries before. To keep their culture alive, the Irish people formed secret societies for the protection of the priests they needed to carry on the faith.

When the potato famine struck the country, more than 1 million Irishmen immigrated to places like Australia and America. The concept of those fraternal, secret societies came with them.

In the United States, one such group called the Ancient Order of Hibernians tried to safeguard the welfare of the newly arrived Irish immigrants against the prevalent anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant sentiment.

Today, Hibernians exist to remember Irish heritage and to give back to Catholic organizations in the community. Each year the Father Mychal Judge O.F.M. Division of St. Francis of Assisi Church in Triangle hosts a St. Patrick's Day concert to do just that.

Last year, the thousands of dollars they raised went back into their church, their parish school, Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School in Dumfries and other Catholic organizations. They hope to do the same with the earnings from this year's concert featuring Celtic Crossings, starring singers Phil Coulter and Andy Cooney.

The celebration also remembers the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising, a watershed moment in Ireland's long struggle for independence.

Easter Rising

After a failed Irish rebellion inspired by the American and French revolutions, Ireland was ruled by the British parliament in London. More than 100 years later in 1914, the British once again granted the Irish "home rule," but the outbreak of World War I postponed the action. Two years went by, and many Irishmen were growing impatient.

On Easter Monday 1916, the Irish Republican Brotherhood and a group of women tried to take over the government buildings in Dublin. The uprising lasted six days with casualties on both sides, including many civilians. British troops executed many who were involved, sharply turning Irish public opinion against them.

Hibernian Fred Rash compares the Easter Rising to the American Boston Tea Party or the Boston Massacre. Like the Boston Tea Party, it was a planned rebellion by a few against the British. Like the Boston Massacre, the brutality with which the British reacted spurred the people to action.

"The Easter Rising was a really important event that gave birth to modern Ireland," said Rash. "At the beginning it seemed like home rule was a great idea, that they would be able to control their own local policies. The Easter Rising showed (the Irish) that they weren't going to get what they wanted. They were going to have to take it."

Music and heritage

The March 18 Celtic Crossings concert will celebrate that spirit of independence, as well as the distinctive Gaelic style of music. Hibernian Harry Flynn, who helped organize the concert, said he has always enjoyed Irish music but has listened to a lot more of it since he joined the Hibernians. Just like country music, each song tells a story.

The group hopes to sell out the Celtic Crossings concert, just as they did last year. "Everybody likes to tie back to their roots," said Flynn.

The concert will be held at Forest Park High School March 18, 7 p.m. Buy tickets here.

Di Mauro can be reached at zdimauro@catholicherald.com or on Twitter @zoeydimauro.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016