For the young women who accept the honor of becoming one of the Great Irish Fair’s Colleen Queens, they also accept the responsibility of becoming an ambassador for Catholic schools. For the 2018 Colleen Queen Mackenzie Iburg – she embraced that responsibility with open arms.
“I’m using this as a platform to give back,” she said. “Although I’m so honored to be the Colleen Queen, I’m honored that I’m able to raise funds for these kids that desire to go to these Catholic schools. I think that’s the best reason to accept it and my grandparents get to watch me so that’s really exciting too.”
Despite growing up in a devout Catholic Irish-American household, it wasn’t until she attended St. Francis College that she was able to experience the fullness that comes with receiving an education directly tied with Catholic values.
“It was very different for me to come to St. Francis College because I was never in a school that cared so much,” she told the audience during the Great Irish Fair’s kickoff event held at the Brooklyn Heights campus. “That Catholic school really connected to me. I was able to go into the chapel if I had a test. I was able to go and sit down and pray.”
Only in God’s design would this 23 year-old Brooklyn-born young woman end up earning her bachelor’s degree at an institution founded on the chrism of service by way of St. Francis of Assisi.
Mackenzie’s life story seemed to always intertwine with service and charity. She loves volunteering at a local dog shelter, helping out with vacation Bible school and completing community service. While in high school, she volunteered at different events for St. Francis College. After graduating from Susan E. Wagner H.S. in Staten Island, the rest was history.
She now works for the college’s Office of Advancement where she is able to help future Terriers pursue their education through scholarships. “That is the most rewarding job that you can have,” she said. “Giving back.”
Love for Family, Brooklyn
But don’t be fooled by the fact that the 2018 Colleen Queen moved to Staten Island when she was a child – Brooklyn is the borough where lies the heart of Mackenzie Iburg.
Once upon a time, the streets surrounding one of the Brooklyn neighborhoods was exactly where a young Irish-American Catholic girl discovered the key elements on what continues to keep her grounded – her faith, her family, friends and the Brooklyn Cyclones games with her twin brother, Max. She thanks her “best friend” for helping her mature at a young age.
Mackenzie took on the role of becoming her twin brother’s caretaker right away because of Max’s cerebral palsy. Being her brother’s keeper is what helps maintain their close relationship.
“I always say when anyone asks me why it’s so special to be Irish it is my big, great Irish family,” she said.
Her grandparents on her mother’s side, Mary and Michael Mooney are from Galway Co. Her nana comes from a family of 15 and is the only sibling that came to America. She was a nurse for the Brooklyn Gas Company. Her papa is one out of seven and worked three jobs to make a living and establish a foundation for her family. They live in Windsor Terrace, which she considers her second home because she spent a majority of her time in the northwestern Brooklyn neighborhood.
Her nana and papa attend Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Kensington, which also holds a special place in her life since she chooses to attend Mass there with her family even though she lives in another borough.
Her parents love story also began in Brooklyn. When Mackenzie’s father Danny Iburg, now a retired NYPD officer, married her mother Ann Marie at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, he was able to stop traffic that day so that his beautiful bride could walk into the Kensington parish without any delays or interruptions.
Continuing that heartfelt labor of love, Mackenzie’s older sister, Morgan, is also a bride-to-be next year and will tie the knot at the same parish that their parents did. If for some reason you find yourself off Fort Hamilton Pkwy. one weekend and notice an unusual traffic stop that includes a bride walking blissfully into a church – a wedding tradition continues.
If Morgan and her soon-to-be husband also choose to have their honeymoon in Ireland, then that would actual be two wedding traditions in the Mooney/Iburg family that will live on.
Be True to Yourself
When the busy young professional has down time, her hobbies include Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, reading, yoga, hiking, trying new food and shopping. The Colleen Queen hopes her life story will inspire others.
“My life was filled with obstacles, but you keep pushing forward, no matter what social media or anything that impacts your life, just keep a balance and keep doing things that you enjoy doing. Fill your life with people whom you love and who love you back.”
Without a doubt, Mackenzie’s supportive family will be in attendance when she takes center stage at the 37th annual Great Irish Fair and gives her speech on the importance of a Catholic education in her life and in the lives of others. And without second-guessing, she wouldn’t want it any other way than with the city she loves so dearly in the backdrop.