The Eagles might be out of the race to the Super Bowl, but that doesn’t mean Philly fans won’t be tuning in on Sunday for a bunch of games that will move two teams closer to the Big Game. With cheese steaks off the menu, you might want to try this delicious, Irish-inspired make-ahead meal that you can pop in the oven just before half time.
Cottage Pie with a Cheddar Crust
In a land where sheep were traditionally a primary food supply, it’s not surprising that lamb is the foundation for many Irish farmhouse dishes. Cottage Pie, a long-time favorite, was originally created as an economical way to use leftover lamb and was always a favorite with farmers. This meat and vegetable pie, which is topped with a crust of mashed potatoes flavored with Kerrygold’s Cheddar or Dubliner cheese, can easily be doubled for a crowd.
What’s in a name?
In the case of the newly rechristened Irish Diaspora Center, quite a lot.
Formerly the Irish Immigration Center of Philadelphia, the Diaspora Center has been broadening its mission for quite some time. The new name is just a recognition of all the ways in which the mission has evolved over that time.
“In doing our strategic planning with our board and setting the course for the next three years of the organization, we recognized that we serve a much broader base than just Irish immigrants,” says center Executive Director Emily Norton Ashinhurst. “So we wanted the name to represent the broader base of who we serve.”
The longtime Upper Darby-based organization originally began as the Irish Immigration and Pastoral Center and then switched over to the Immigration Center, but for quite a while center activities have expanded. For example, the senior luncheon has served Irish immigrants for years, as has the free legal immigration clinic, but in the meantime the mission has expanded to include, for example, a youth program known as Foróige and a genealogy program which serves the broader community.
“None of the services that we provide are changing,” says Ashinhurst. “This really was to more adequately reflect our mission and the work that we do.”
We’re about to celebrate an Irish Christmas custom that has its roots in an unusual ritual going back centuries, and you’re invited.
It’s the feast of St. Stephen—December 26—and the Irish conferred upon this holy commemoration a distinctly unusual twist, which we’ll get to.
Sponsored by Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann-Delaware Valley, the local chapter of a worldwide organization that celebrates traditional Irish music, dance, language and culture, the annual Wren Party begins at 7 p.m. the night after Christmas. It takes place at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 235 Limekiln Pike in Glenside, Montgomery County.
The folks at the Commodore John Barry Arts & Cultural Center (also known as the Irish Center) want you to get to know what a singular contribution the venerable institution makes to the Philadelphia Irish community and to the surrounding neighborhood of Mount Airy—and what better time than at the beginning of the Christmas holiday season.
The Center will host its first Christmas Tree Lighting and Open House December 1 from 12 noon to 6 p.m. You can find the Center at 6815 Emlen Street in Mount Airy. Best of all, it’s free, although donations will be accepted.
“There will be something going on in every room of the Center,” says board member and vice president Lisa Maloney. “In the Fireside Room, there will be Irish music from noon ‘til 6. We have a number of Irish musicians already confirmed. From there you move into the Barry Room, where we’re hosting a Christmas market. We have about 12 or 13 vendors already confirmed. Bette Conway will have jewelry, and there will also be antique jewelry, and handmade candles made by Maureen Barry Connor. Bewley’s Tea will be there with tea and jam and other yummy treats.
The Delaware Valley Irish Hall of Fame held its 2019 Dinner this past Sunday night, honoring four well-respected representatives of the local Irish community. They included: Judge Patrick Dugan and Sister Marguerite O’Beirne, OSF, with a Commodore John Barry Award presented to Russell W. Wylie. The beloved Liam Hegarty, of Gaelic Athletic Association Fame—and so much more—was honored posthumously.
About 400 friends and relatives of the honorees filled the Philadelphia Irish Center ballroom wall to wall. All told, one of the best DVIHOF celebrations ever. Standing O’s all-round.
Judge Patrick Dugan
There are Irishmen walking on the streets of Dublin who aren’t as Irish—DNA-wise, at least—as Judge Patrick Dugan.
“I’m 99 percent, with some British Isles in there,” laughs Judge Dugan, sitting in his memento-bedecked office on the 13th floor of the Justice Juanita Kidd Stout Center for Criminal Justice where his view encompasses the south side of City Hall and bustling Penn Square.
Dugan, chief judge of Philadelphia Veterans Court, descended from great-grandparents who emigrated to the US from Mayo and Cork, but his childhood wasn’t steeped in his Irish heritage. “We knew we were Irish but I wasn’t hearing folklore and stories,” he says. “I had my awakening as a young man. It came when I was watching news of ‘the Troubles’ and trying to understand how we got there.”
His newly awakened interest led him to the Ancient Order of Hibernians. He’s a member of Div. 25 in Fox Chase. Every year he gives a speech at their annual Day of the Rope, which remembers the four members of the Molly Maguires, dissident miners, who were hanged in the jailhouse in what is now Jim Thorpe, Pa., after what is now widely considered to be a judgment by a kangaroo court.
It’s a different speech each year but, he says, the theme is always the same. “It takes us back to what our people had to endure when they came here,” he says. “I get something new out of it every year and I reach more people who I hope understand what labor went through, what Irish immigrants went through, to get where we are as a people.”
Liam with his partner Paul Maguire at a business meeting
William “Liam” Hegarty was part of a generation that his friend, Donegal native John McDaid, describes as “the last off the boat.”
McDaid was talking about the fact that fewer and fewer Irish immigrants are taking that well worn path to the United States, even during the last worldwide recession. “The next generation won’t be Irish in the same way,” said McDaid, former secretary of the Delaware County Gaels youth Gaelic sports program, during this summer’s Continental Youth Championships (CYC) which was dedicated to Hegarty, chairman of the annual international event
Liam Hegarty tragically died of a heart attack on Dec. 3, 2018, at the age of 51.
Liam, said McDaid, wanted to make sure these children of immigrants never forgot their Irish roots. “He said the more we stayed involved, the more they will be involved.”
Father Suresh Raj, OFM Cap., Neumann Chaplain with Sister Marguerite
Sister Marguerite O’Beirne has covered some considerable distance in her life and journeyed far greater than the 3,176 miles it took to get from Cloonloo, County Sligo, to Neumann University in Aston, Pennsylvania. But at the heart and soul of every step taken has been both the presence of faith and her dedication to the importance of education.
Born in 1942 to Joseph O’Beirne and Margaret Mullen, in a time not so long ago, but when electricity had not yet arrived in the rural areas of Ireland, Sister Marguerite was one of six children. Part of a close and loving family, her office at Neumann, where she has been vice president for Mission and Ministry since 1997, is adorned with photos of siblings, nieces and nephews and her home back in Sligo.
After her days as a student at St. Ronan’s National School in Cloonloo (the Irish spelling is “Cluain Lough,” meaning “Meadow by the Lake,” which in this case is Lough Gara), she attended the Convent of Mercy Secondary School in Boyle. It was there that her opportunity to continue her own education availed itself. Representatives from several religious congregations visited the school to invite the young women to join them. Sister Marguerite was drawn to the mission of the the Sisters of St. Francis, and in 1958 she went to Mallow in County Cork for six months of studying there. She learned that she was going to the Sisters of St. Francis in Philadelphia, and in January of 1959 she was one of a group to start a new life in the United States.