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A Singular Honor for Sister James Anne Feerick

Sister James Anne, receiving flowers at the St. Patrick's Day Parade in 2008.

Sister James Anne, receiving flowers at the St. Patrick's Day Parade in 2008.

Sister James Anne Feerick, I.H.M., longtime dedicated Catholic school educator, is the 2011 Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day grand marshal.

Sister James Anne has been a member of the Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary since 1960. Currently, she is director and teacher at the IHM Educational Center in Bryn Mawr. Earlier in the week, she was named the recipient of the Mayo Association of Philadelphia’s 2010 President’s Award—so you could say that this was a spectacular week for this stellar graduate of West Catholic Girls High. (Sister is also the longtime chaplain of the Mayo Association.)

Associated with the parade for many years—as a judge since 1985 and, in 2008, a member of the Ring of Honor—she dates her involvement in the parade back to 1956, when she first started marching in it.

It would be hard to find anyone more steeped in Irish tradition than Sister James Anne. Going back to her youth, she was a violin player who performed on Will Regan’s Irish Hour and was secretary of the old Irish Musicians Union in Southwest Philadelphia for two years.

Of course, people who know her also recognize her as a superb Irish dancer. She started as a student at Sean Lavery School of Irish Dance in West Philadelphia (from 1949-1960), and she’s been on her toes ever since. As an educator, she often taught students Irish dance as a way of developing coordination.

Fittingly, the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Observance Association chose as its 2011 theme: St. Patrick, Bless Our Religious Sisters Who Serve, Inspire and Educate.

Sister James Anne is the first woman selected as grand marshal since Rosemarie Timoney, in 1997.

In what apparently marks a banner year for Irish women, Kathy McGee Burns, previously 1st vice president of the parade association, was elected president. She is only the second woman to serve in that capacity. (The first was Marie C. Burns, 1993-1994.)

McGee Burns already is a very busy and accomplished woman. She is the first president of the Delaware Valley Irish Hall of Fame. She also was the first woman president of the Donegal Association. In 2010, she was selected to receive one of the first Inspirational Irish Women awards. Also in 2010, she was named winner of the third annual Joseph E. Montgomery Award from Ancient Order of Hibernians Division 62.

The board also elected two new members, two new board members, Mike Driscoll, owner of Finnigan’s Wake and a longtime notable parade booster, and police Sgt. John Stevenson.

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