MIDTOWN — With a soundtrack of bagpipes and drums, marchers with banners and flags filled 5th Avenue in the return of the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, a long-awaited rebound after a two-year pandemic-induced absence.
An estimated 150,000 participants joined in for the famous NYC tradition that dates back to 1762.
Police officers, military units, high school marching bands, and pipe-and-drum corps passed in review before St. Patrick’s Cathedral. They all marched beneath gray skies and a light drizzle, but their joy and enthusiasm pierced the dreary weather.
Before the parade stepped off around 11 a.m., Bishop Robert Brennan celebrated the annual St. Patrick’s Day Mass. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who usually celebrates the Mass, was in St. Louis for the funeral of his mother, Shirley Jean Radcliffe Dolan.
Cardinal Dolan, the archbishop of New York, is known to revel exuberantly at the annual parade. This time, it was Bishop Brennan who brimmed with excitement.
“It’s great to have all the people around us,” he said. “You get that spirit of prayer, and you get a sense of relief.”
He said everyone’s joy was palpable, “being together here to celebrate this great feast, here at this great cathedral — America’s Parish Church.”
Prayers for Cardinal Dolan’s family and for the war in Ukraine were requested multiple times during the Mass and the parade.
“The world,” Bishop Brennan said, “needs two things today — encouragement and hope. And what do we have here today? Encouragement and hope. We pray for peace in Ukraine and, really, all around the world.”
After the Mass, he was greeted inside the cathedral by his brother, Officer Thomas Brennan, a member of the New York City Police Department.
On the review stage Bishop Brennan reconnected with the parade’s grand marshal, James Callahan, also from Lindenhurst, New York, and now the general president of the International Union of Operating Engineers. Callahan played a key role in helping lower Manhattan recover from the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center.
Mayor Eric Adams and Gov. Kathy Hochul also greeted Bishop Brennan as did New York State Attorney General Letitia James and the city’s new police commissioner, Keechant Sewell.
Msgr. David Cassato, pastor of St. Athanasius Church in Bensonhurst, who is also an NYPD chaplain, attended in his police uniform.
At one point, Bishop Brennan jumped onto the parade route to pose for pictures with the Xaverian High School Pipes & Drums Corps.
The parade also paid special respect to the city’s public safety personnel.
Since it could not be held last year, the 20th anniversary of 9/11, a moment of silence was held in memory of first responders who died at the World Trade Center, or from illnesses related to exposure to toxins at the site.
To honor them, the parade paused at noon; participants turned south toward lower Manhattan while buglers played “Taps.”
St. Francis College President Miguel Martinez-Saenz and Bishop Robert Brennan today on 5th Avenue at the #StPatricksDay Parade in #NYC. @SFCNY @sfcprezmiguel @BrooklynDiocese @bishopofbklyn pic.twitter.com/WDh96aRe0C
— Brooklyn Diocese Press Office (@BQDiocesePress) March 17, 2022
Front-line essential workers from the pandemic era were also honored, as representatives, many in green hospital scrubs, marched with police and firefighters as the parade’s “Honor Guard.”
In his homily, Bishop Brennan said the St. Patrick’s Day feast is a great day for Catholics because it celebrates the missionary zeal of the saint who, as a teen, was kidnapped by Irish pirates from his home in Britain.
He was kept in isolation, tending to sheep. But once he escaped and returned home, he decided to return to Ireland to become a different sort of shepherd, Bishop Brennan said.
“He goes back,” Bishop Brennan said, “but he goes back as a priest, as a bishop. He preached, he taught, he brought people to the Christian faith.”
Bishop Brennan said the “spiritual sons and daughters of St. Patrick” continue his evangelizing work.
“Think of the evangelization of the world that came through Irish missionaries,” he said. “Through the generations, St. Patrick’s work has come a long, long way — right here, in New York.”