New York's St. Patrick's Day Parade: A Perspective

If you have missed the ongoing conversation about the need to preserve the tradition of the parade in New York, and to protect the role and the voice of its many affiliate groups, it's worth looking up the many places where the dialogue continues. There is a petition to help focus the concern -- and the link below will take you to a petition where you can add your name, and if you wish, why this is important to you.

Above, St. Patrick Parade, Fifth Ave., New York 1907. From George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress).

ST. PATRICK'S PARADE - The Current Conversation

https://www.change.org/p/dr-john-lahey-chairman-st-patrick-s-day-pa...

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Tags: Controversies, Folklore, News, Parades, St. Patrick's Day, Tradition

Comment by Cameron William Robinson on November 1, 2015 at 8:21am

As someone who supports the recognition of the part Ireland played in the building of the United States. I regret I am unable to sign the petition. I would agree with many of the pionts but I am in complete disagreement with the stipulation that members should all be Roman Catholics. I thought in this day and age we were trying to put sectarianism such as this behind us.  Many of the Irish who went to America were not Roman Catholics the same could be said of many such as the Fenians. I suggest that this particular stipulation would be used againest you.

Comment by rod Murphy on November 1, 2015 at 12:12pm

St. Patrick is a saint of the RC Church. The Fifth Ave parade is in his honor. "Many of the Irish who went to America were not Roman Catholics". True and too many of them were Catholic haters and tried to disenfranchise many Irish RC immigrants like my grandparents. Members should be Catholics and hopefully not Kennedy type Catholics who move with the winds. 

Comment by Neil F. Cosgrove on November 2, 2015 at 11:13am

Cameron:  What is lost here is that this parade is first and foremost  to honor St. Patrick as the Patron Saint of the Archdiocese of New York.  That is why the parde goes up fifth avenue and past St. Patrick's Cathedral.  To that end the requirement is reasonable and no more sectarian that saying that the organizers of the Vererans Day parade be Veterans.

Comment by Fr. John R. Sheehan, SJ on November 2, 2015 at 11:18am

My answer to Cameron would be that while the requirement comes from another age, in today's world, the values that have so long been associated with Ireland and the Irish have been eroded by "modern" society and political correctness, and so if we are to retain a benchmark of morality and a point of view that remains consonant with those values, the Catholic Church is perhaps the only steadfast source I can think of. I know, it is also unfortunately true that "being Catholic" does not necessarily mean a person holds to or lives those values - but if we want to maintain a standard, that may be the best one around. I don't think in today's parade the idea is exclusion, but rather trying to maintain a particular standard in a world that seems bent on removing ALL standards. 

Comment by Cameron William Robinson on November 2, 2015 at 11:48am

You are all entitled to your views but St. Patrick is a saint to many in Ireland who are not Roman Catholics. As a matter of historical interest the first St. Patrick's Day in America was held in Boston in the 18th Century organised by Irish Protestants. Also as regards Mr.Murphy's remarks many of those Protestants who went to America had been active in the United irishmen and took part in the '98 Rebellion. Our history is entwined wether some like it or not. 

Comment by Fr. John R. Sheehan, SJ on November 2, 2015 at 11:51am

With respect - the St. Patrick's Day parade in New York dates from 1762. I don't know the date of the Boston parade. But ours has been constant. 

Comment by rod Murphy on November 2, 2015 at 12:14pm

I agree with Mr. Robinson, that there were many Protestants who were Irish patriots, Wolfe Tone and later Robert Emmet and Charles Stewart Parnell. I'm a Boston mick, 76 years old and I remember anti-Catholic Protestants, some with Irish backgrounds who had power over hiring and real estate and club memberships. They used that power against Irish RCs in my father's and my grandfather's day and a little into my time. Mr. Robinson is correct that the Boston St. Patrick's Day Parade in Southie is the oldest and the nation’s longest-running public parade, since 1737.

Comment by Cameron William Robinson on November 2, 2015 at 12:18pm

Yes Father your are quite right New York got the first parade (organised by Irish serving in the British Army (now there is irony for you :)). . However Boston beat New York in celibrating it with a banquet in 1734 organised by Irish residing in Boston most of whom at that time were Protestant. I am sure I don't need to tell you that he is every Irishman's Saint.Today Red coats still celebrate his day, the Irish Guards paradeing and wearing Shamrock on their jackets. I do hope you are successful at keeping the etninticity of the parade alive, although I don't think many americans will soon forget the part played in the building of the United States by the Irish of both traditions.


Heritage Partner
Comment by That's Just How It Was on November 4, 2015 at 6:10am

Doing some research on my grandmother book ; I found references to St,Patrick Parade in Chicago dating from 1756 ! 

Comment by Fr. John R. Sheehan, SJ on November 4, 2015 at 10:20am

I think part of the claim on New York is not just that it was started in 1762 but has continued since uninterrupted. Maybe we should encourage the Irish in those cities to add their voices to the rising protest of this strange attempt to turn the parade into a personal fiefdom by the 2nd highest paid private university president in the country. 

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