Hundreds of residents lined the streets of Bayside as the Queens neighborhood held its inaugural St. Patrick’s Day Parade down Bell Blvd. on Saturday, March 24.
Bright green shamrocks were painted on the asphalt from 36th to 41st avenues moments before Patrick Lynch, president of the New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, lead the parade as grand marshal.
“I’m so proud, not only being a Baysider, but being an Irish-American,” said Lynch, a third-generation community resident on his father’s side. His mother was born in County Mayo.
“We’re going to march … to honor so many folks who put this together: our police, our fire, the neighborhood folks. This is what it’s about to be a New Yorker.”
The NYPD Emerald Society and members of New York’s Finest came out in force to support Lynch and celebrate the day.
Pipe and drum bands played and step dancers delighted crowds with kicks and twirls as aides Mary McCauley, Father Robert Whelan, Francis McLoughlin, Frank Talty and Jeff Reinhart, waved and smiled along the route.
Strong Catholic Presence
More than three dozen groups, associations and schools participated in the line of march, including Knights of Columbus Councils; Sacred Heart and Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament academies; St. Josaphat parish; St. Kevin Cub Scouts, Flushing; Holy Cross H.S., Flushing, and St. Francis Prep, Fresh Meadows.
“We do have the community support,” said Kieran Mahoney, parade president and parishioner at Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament. “A lot of people are involved.”
Bayside has long been home to a sizeable Irish population. Though the area has grown more diverse in recent years with Asian families moving in, the sons and daughters of Erin maintain a strong presence – and desire to share their heritage, culture and faith with newcomers and neighbors.
For years, people talked about having a parade in honor of St. Patrick, but no one took any definitive steps until last July, when Mahoney met with longtime locals Francis McLoughlin and Warren Scullin to make some real plans.
They reached out to community groups, elected officials and the police precinct as well as businesses, parishes and schools to make sure everyone was on board for what Mahoney hopes will be an annual event.
“It’s always been a pipedream here,” said Father Whelan, pastor of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament parish. “So I was quite shocked when they said, ‘Here’s the date and you’re part of it!’”
Father Whelan, who gained dual citizenship with Ireland in 2005, served as an aide to Lynch. He saw this honor as an opportunity to be an evangelizer like St. Patrick – “to bring the faith out into the community.”
“These kinds of celebrations really do bring neighbors together in a different way, even people who might not come to church. You meet them on the avenue and get to know them in a different context, so it’s a good thing,” Father Whelan said.
“Even as the neighborhood becomes more mixed, more diverse, that’s why it’s all the more important not to forget your roots, and to demonstrate your pride, your faith and your Catholic values.”
Parade organizers and honorees began the morning by honoring St. Patrick and their Catholic roots with an 8 a.m. Mass at Sacred Heart Church. Msgr. Thomas Machalski, the newly installed pastor, was the main celebrant, and Father Whelan concelebrated.
Father Christopher R. Heanue, diocesan director of ministry to the Irish, was the homilist.
“How awesome it is to be present today at this first St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Bayside,” he said.
Preserve Heritage, Roots, Faith
The young priest lauded those present, from parade organizers and honorees to the congregation, for taking time before they marched “to preserve our Irish heritage, to preserve our Irish roots, to preserve our Catholic faith by starting this day in the best way possible – with Mass.”
In his homily, he evoked laughter by sharing anecdotes about visiting Ireland in his youth, and then spoke more seriously about the decline of faith and priestly vocations over there today.
Looking upon the Irish born and Irish-Americans sitting in the pews, he urged them to continue practicing their faith and traditions, and to pass them down to future generations on both sides of the Atlantic.