It seems only fitting that the proceeds from The Great Irish Fair are donated to support Catholic education in Brooklyn and Queens. One by one, the honorees at the Fair in Coney Island this past weekend came to the microphone to accept their laurels and almost to a man or woman, they thanked their teachers in Catholic schools for the success they have had in life.
This year’s Chief Brehon – the Fair’s highest honor – credits his success in communications, technology sales and business development to Catholic schools. He mentions the Xaverian Brothers at Holy Name School in Windsor Terrace; the Marianist Brothers at Most Holy Trinity H.S., Williamsburg; and the Franciscan Brothers at St. Francis College as the people who inspired his life’s work.
The Colleen Queen, 17-year-old Caitlin Therese Ward is a champion Irish step dancer, who attended St. Christopher’s elementary school on Staten Island and is currently a senior at Notre Dame Academy.
State Sen. Marty Golden, who represents several neighborhoods in Brooklyn, recalled the Dominican Sisters at St. Patrick’s School, and the Franciscan Brothers and Sisters of Charity at Our Lady of Angels, both in Bay Ridge, as particularly shaping his values. He was presented the Fair’s first Al O’Hagan Community Service Award, named for the great Hibernian who organized the Great Irish Fair for almost 25 years before his death this past year.
Sister Helen Kearney, C.S.J., president of the Sisters of St. Joseph, Brentwood, was purchasing a copy of “The Ninth Hour,” the latest novel by author Alice McDermott, who was honored as Bard of the Fair.
“She’s one of ours,” boasted Sister Helen, referring to the fact that McDermott attended Sacred Heart Academy, conducted in Hempstead by the Sisters of St. Joseph.
Honorees like Gerry Fitzgerald (Capt. Timothy Stackpole Award) proudly listed Little Flower, East Flatbush, as the parish of his youth, and St. Joseph’s College, Brooklyn, where he received his bachelor’s degree.
Michael Gibbons, recipient of the Thomas Cuite Memorial Award, for his dedication to several Irish-American organizations, is a graduate of St. Francis College; NYPD Det. Brian Curley (P.O. Edward Byrne Award) and Sister Marie Mackey, C.S.J, (Kathleen Slattery Woman of the Year) were classmates at St. Joseph’s College, Brooklyn; Father Robert Lauder (Bishop Joseph Sullivan Memorial Award) fondly remembers the Jesuits at Xavier H.S.; Coach Don Kent (Celtic Cross Award) speaks glowingly of the Xaverians at Holy Name, and the Franciscan Brothers at St. Francis Prep; and Father Brian Jordan, O.F.M., (Father Mychal Judge, O.F.M., Memorial Award) was introduced to the Franciscan Order by the friars at Siena College, in upstate New York. The list could go and on.
One of the things about the Irish is that they never forget from whence they came and they’re grateful for the gifts that have been bestowed upon them. And so they continue to make possible for this generation what made their generation so successful – not the least of which is their Catholic Education – through events like The Great Irish Fair.