The Irish Apostolate USA is the response of the Irish and American Catholic Bishops to the needs of Irish immigrants in the United States – the needs of the whole human person. It is the Christian imperative of caring for those who move far from the ancestral home, and welcoming the stranger as one would welcome Christ, once an exile himself.
Background and History
The Irish Apostolate USA, a collaborative effort of the sending and receiving Churches, began in 1987 in the Archdioceses of Boston and New York. Traditionally two of the largest Irish communities in the United States, these communities were growing as many young Irish left for distant shores in search of work. Irish Chaplains followed these immigrants and have since cared for new arrivals.
In 1997 a National Director was appointed to assess and coordinate a response to the needs of recent Irish immigrants in the entire United States.
Today we have Irish Chaplains in Boston, San Francisco, and Chicago. There are outreach programs in New York, Baltimore, Seattle, Milwaukee and San Diego, Baltimore, and during the summer months in Ocean City, Maryland.
The three chaplains assigned to the IIPCs in Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco give vital sacramental services to members of the Irish communities. In 2010, they celebrated 108 baptisms, 56 weddings, 29 Home Masses, officiated at 63 funerals, and made regular visits to the sick and homebound as well as to short term detainees and long term Irish prisoners in the United States.
Gradually we hope to bring service at a local level to other cities. Meantime, help is available nationwide through our National Office. The Email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
What makes our Irish Apostolates unique?
Our way of working comes out of what is deepest in Irish faith and culture. Every person who approaches us is seen as a visit from Christ himself. This was the approach of the ancient Irish monks from Patrick’s time. They received the stranger as Christ. They washed his or her feet, gave him or her a bed of clean straw to rest. They then cancelled their fasting and had a feast to celebrate Christ’s visit. The same theology was behind the Irish tradition of leaving a key in the door and a light in the window at night to guide the stranger – Christ the light of the world might need a bed or food….!
Our Apostolates are in this tradition. By being there for the immigrant, we are meeting Christ, now the exile away from home and family, as He was after his flight to Egypt. We meet His needs as did the Irish monks of the past. We share His pain and loss when workless, homeless or broken hearted. We celebrate with Him, in Eucharist, birthdays, reconciliations, baptisms and wedding parties.
We do this by asking for this Irish openness, hospitality, care and compassion from the immigrants themselves towards each other. We are a Body made up of many and varied members, with a welcome and a place for everyone, no matter whether or not they are members of the institutional Church. Like Christ, we not only walk with them on their life’s journey, we call them to witness to love and compassion by sharing their gifts, talents and resources in the service of others. As St. Paul said, we are all given special gifts to share with each other so that “we can all grow together to become fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself”. So we develop communities of mutual support, with a sense of solidarity, significance and security; and a community that looks outward to the needs of all.
We, therefore, rely mainly on the skills and resources of the immigrants themselves who volunteer their time and energy. In addition, we build relationships with professionals within our communities who have particular expertise for particular needs. Our structure is on a firm foundation of community service, motivated by faith and made effective by strong professional support and up-to-date resources.