The Irish Apostolate USA is the response of the Irish and U.S. Catholic Bishops to the needs of Irish immigrants in the United States – the needs of the 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.
The Irish Apostolate USA
reflects the Gospel message of love and compassion in our work;
affirms the dignity of all human beings;
strives to meet the spiritual and physical needs of people;
offers hospitality and belonging in a setting of mutual acceptance;
values teamwork in our efforts to make a difference in the lives of Irish and all immigrants;
believes that all people should be treated fairly;
commits to promote justice for immigrants and comprehensive immigration reform.
The Irish Apostolate USA is a collaborative effort of the Irish Episcopal Council for Emigrants of the Irish Bishops’ Conference and the Bishops’ Committee on Migration of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The duty of caring for migrants falls on the host Bishop, however, in a spirit of communion as outlined in Erga Migrates Caritas Christi and for the better coordination of pastoral activity. It is ‘unthinkable’ that the Churches of arrival and departure would not collaborate with one another. (Paragraph 70)
The Irish Apostolate USA 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. Traditionally, the vast majority of immigrants arriving from Ireland go to places where they have friends and acquaintances; cities like New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco and Philadelphia. However, now immigrants can be found in practically all of the 50 States.
In 1997 a National Director, Fr Timothy O’Sullivan, was appointed to assess and coordinate a response to the needs of recent Irish immigrants in the entire United States. He was followed by Rev. Colm Campbell in 2001. In 2005 the Irish Apostolate USA reorganized and established a presiding Board of Directors.
To aid IAUSA in its outreach, The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops appointed an Episcopal liaison to assist in communication between Ireland and the U.S. The first Episcopal Liaison was Bishop Raymond Boland, bishop emeritus of the Diocese of Kansas City/St.Joseph, Missouri, now deceased. Bishop Raymond Boland was a great advocate for the Irish immigrants in the United States during his tenure as Episcopal Liaison. For many years he was also involved in the Northern Ireland peace process. In 2005, Bishop J. Kevin Boland, Bishop Emeritus of Savannah – and brother to Bishop Raymond – became the Episcopal Liaison to the Irish Apostolate USA. In this capacity, Bishop Kevin Boland has met with the Irish chaplains to hear about the pastoral, social, and immigration needs of the Irish immigrants across the United States and offers guidance and support. Bishop John Kirby, Bishop of Clonfert diocese, is the current Episcopal counterpart in Ireland and chair of the Irish Episcopal Council for Emigrants (IECE) Council.
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!
Photo credit: Nheyob
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”. 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 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.