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Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade

News

Sean McMenamin’s Special Day

Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade Grand Marshal Sean McMenamin is on a tight schedule these days. Who knew being grand marshal came with the responsibility for so many appearances and speeches?

It will all come to a head Sunday when he is driven down Market Street to the reviewing stand at the Constitution Center, accepting well-deserved accolades along the way.

But as grateful as Sean McMenamin is to be honored, he is quick to point out that he alone is not the one being singled out for praise, but it the generation of Irish emigrants from the late 1950s and early 1960s that he represents.

In speeches yesterday before Philadelphia City Council, a salute to Irish patriots outside City Hall and, last night, as he proudly accepted the sash of grand marshal at a dinner at Sugar House Casino held in his honor, he remembered his roots—and those of so many of his friends.

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News, Photo Essays

Cavan Society Prepares for its Big Entrance

On a recent Saturday morning, a brightly lighted, cavernous truck bay in the back of Cavan Construction in Aston is a hive of activity. About a half dozen men are clustered around an 18-wheel tractor-trailer, sawing, drilling and hammering, carefully crafting the Cavan Society float for the 2019 Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade. In this, they are able assisted by a curious boxer named Diesel. That is, if “help” means leaving paw prints all over freshly green-painted wooden planks. 

We can tell you the theme. It’s the same as this year’s parade theme: “St. Patrick, Unite Us.” Beyond that, until Sunday, the day of the parade, it’s a big secret. Some of the wooden shapes hinted at the beginnings of a bridge, and there was a small house-shaped structure at the tail end. But that’s all you’re getting from us.

And it’s all you’re likely to get from Sean Smith, company project manager and superintendent, as well as the chief overseer of the float construction project.

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News

Grand Marshal and Ring of Honor Recognized at Philly Parade Party

Sean McMenamin, who came to the United States from a small town just outside of Westport, County Mayo, in January 1966, describes Irish immigrants of the time as “survivors.” They came here when immigration laws were far more lax than they are now, and they did what they needed to do to make a life for themselves.

He recalled those days Wednesday night at a VIP Party at the Constitution Center—one in which he was honored as this year’s grand marshal of the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day parade.

And he remembered a steady flow of Irish immigrants in those days. “Every week, there’d be somebody new coming,” he said, addressing a large, enthusiastic crowd that included members of the parade’s Ring of Honor.

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News

Last Hurrah for the 2014 Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade

 

One last speech from Jim Murray

One last speech from Jim Murray

Philly’s parade people like a party.

They gave an extra-big one Wednesday night at Finnigan’s Wake, all to honor the folks who scored honors at this year’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.

It was also the swan song for this year’s grand marshal, Jim Murray, who observed that the hardest thing an Irishman can be asked to do is to say a few words. But he did say a few words, and they all amounted to one simple message: Thank you.

We posted winners before, but you probably don’t feel like trying to find them again, so here they are again.

Hon. James H.J. Tate Award

(Founded 1980, this was named the Enright Award Prior to 1986)

Sponsored by: Mike Driscoll & Michael Bradley

Group that Best Exemplified the Spirit of the Parade

Philadelphia Fire Department

 

Msgr. Thomas J. Rilley Award (Founded 1980)

Outstanding Fraternal Organization

Sponsored by: AOH Division 39 Msgr. Thomas J. Rilley

Second Street Irish Society

 

George Costello Award (Founded 1980)

Organization with the Outstanding Float in the Parade

Sponsored by: The Irish Society

Irish of Havertown

 

Hon. Vincent A. Carroll Award (Founded 1980)

Outstanding Musical Unit Excluding Grade School Bands:

Sponsored by: John Dougherty

Bishop Shanahan Cheerleaders & Marching Band

 

Anthony J. Ryan Award (Founded 1990)

Outstanding Grade School Band

Sponsored by: The Ryan Family

St. Aloysius Academy Marching Band

 

Walter Garvin Award (Founded 1993)

Outstanding Children’s Irish Dance Group

Sponsored by: Walter Garvin Jr.

Rince Ri School of Irish Dance

 

Marie C. Burns Award (Founded 2003)

Outstanding Adult Dance Group

Sponsored by: Philadelphia Emerald Society

Tara Gael Dancers

 

Joseph E. Montgomery Award (Founded 2006)

Outstanding AOH and/or LAOH Divisions

Sponsored by: AOH Div. 65 Joseph E. Montgomery

AOH Division 22 Firefighter John J. Redmond & LAOH Division 22 St. Florian

 

Joseph J. “Banjo” McCoy Award (Founded 2006)

Outstanding Fraternal Organization

Sponsored by: Schuylkill Irish Society

St. Thomas More High School Alumni Association

 

James F. Cawley Parade Director’s Award (Founded 2006)

Outstanding Irish Performance or Display Chosen by the Parade Director

Sponsored by: AOH Division 87 Port Richmond

Cara School of Irish Dance

 

Father Kevin C. Trautner Award (Founded 2008)

Outstanding School or Religious Organization that displays their Irish Heritage while promoting Christian Values

Sponsored by: Kathy McGee Burns

St. Denis Parish/Cardinal Foley School Havertown

 

Maureen McDade McGrory Award (Founded 2008)

Outstanding Children’s Irish Dance Group Exemplifying the Spirit of Irish Culture through Traditional Dance.

Sponsored by: McDade School of Irish Dance

McDade-Cara Championship Irish Dancers

 

James P. “Jim” Kilgallen Award (Founded 2011)

Outstanding organization that best exemplifies the preservation of Irish-American unity through charitable endeavors to assist those less fortunate at home and abroad.

Sponsored by: Michael Bradley

AOH Division # 39 Monsignor Thomas J Rilley

 

Mary Theresa Dougherty Award (Founded 2012)

Outstanding organization dedicated to serving the needs of God’s people in the community.

Sponsored by: St. Patrick’s Day Observance Association Board

Haverford HS Best Buddies

 

Paul J. Phillips Jr. Award (Founded 2012)

Outstanding parade marshal.

Sponsored by: Robert M. Gessler

John Gallagher

 

Phillip ‘Knute’ Bonner Award (Founded 2013)

Award given to the outstanding organization dedicated to preserve our freedom and protect us through sacrifice and compassion for others.

Sponsored by: Mary Beth Bonner Ryan

Irish Immigration Center

News, People

Paying It Forward

Jim MurrayA lot of people in Philadelphia would say Jim Murray ought to be canonized on the strength of a single miracle: As general manager of the Philadelphia Eagles, he determinedly and methodically drove the team from its status as perennial cellar-dweller to its very first Super Bowl in 1980.

Sadly, the Birds lost to the Raiders, 27-10. Miracle workers can do only so much.

What many Philadelphia don’t know, perhaps, is that Jim Murray has devoted his entire adult life to miracles, not just the kind that occur within the confines of a gridiron. Those other miracles are far more enduring, and they have had a deep impact on thousands of people—maybe more.

On Sunday, Murray’s contributions to the betterment of the city and well beyond the city limits will be recognized as he marches up the Benjamin Franklin Parkway as another kind of GM—this year’s grand marshal of the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day parade.

To hear Murray tell it, his selection as grand marshal is just another shining example of the incredible good fortune that has followed him all his life. He is blessed with a genial, some might say “irresistible” personality, and you have to figure that helped. Murray could probably jolly the Israelis and the Palestinians into coming to the table, and afterward persuade them to play a pickup game of touch football in East Jerusalem. He has received every kind of award and honorary degree you can think of. He was inducted into the Philadelphia City All-Star Chapter of the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame in 1992, and he received President Ronald Reagan’s Medal for Volunteers of America in 1987. For a man of so many achievements, he is curiously self-effacing.

Not bad for a guy from 812 Brooklyn Street in West Philly, where Murray spent his early years before moving with his family to Clifton Heights. There was nothing in Murray’s life that might have predicted the successful life he has had. But it wasn’t as if there was anything standing in his way, either, and early on Murray set out to make the most of his gifts. Murray, the son of Mary (nee) Kelly and Jim Murray, has always been possessed of an indomitable and optimistic spirit.

“We were poorer than poor, and richer than rich,” he says, “but West Philly was a wonderful place to grow up. Officer Gallagher was down at the corner.  Everybody would turn you in if they saw you doing something wrong. Your street was your playground. We had no organized athletics, nothing like that, but I was always a sports fan. I don’t think you can put limits on prayer, God and good parents. Great teachers and mentors are a vital part of the equation. And it doesn’t hurt that you get lucky.”

When you hear Jim Murray speak, as he has had the opportunity to do several times since his choice as grand marshal, it is clear that he is a presence. Part of that particular aspect of his personality might have to do to with his build. He’s the first to joke about his belt size. Thursday night at the Doubletree Hotel in Center City, where he received his silken tricolor grand marshal’s sash, he worried aloud about whether it would fit. Every time he’s made a public appearance, he’s worn at least one hat. Last week at the CBS3 pre-parade party, he donned a gold yarmulke in tribute to his flawed, flamboyant, but nonetheless generous and beloved boss Leonard Tose. Yesterday, at a City Hall ceremony to declare March Irish Month, he wore a green Eagles cap. In neither case did it look like the headgear was a good fit for his head. His eyebrows are like furry little rain gutters. His cheeks are ruddy, and they rise like little helium balloons every time he smiles—which is often. He’s always good for a laugh—and often he’s the butt of his own jokes.

In short, Jim Murray is a big guy, but with a heart to match. He’s a hard guy to say no to.

And people have been saying yes to him for a long time.

But at least in one one case, someone said no early on. No matter who you are, you can’t escape hard knocks.

“I felt that I had a vocation, so in eighth grade, I went into the seminary, the Augustinian Academy on Long Island. In junior year, they thought a few of us had snuck out to see the Christmas show at Radio City. We didn’t actually go. We overcame the temptation. Long story short, we were expelled. That kind of thing is traumatic when you’re trying to decide. But once again, God has a sense of humor. I ended up getting thrown out and going to West Catholic. Being taught by the Christian Brothers was a great spirit.

After West, he attended Villanova. One day, he answered an ad for a student baseball team manager. He approached former Phillies first baseman and ‘Nova baseball coach Art Mahan. Murray admitted he wasn’t a baseball player, but he really wanted the job and was eager to learn. “Art Mahan changed my life,” says Murray. “When he died two years ago, he was 97 years old, the oldest living Phillies and Red Sox player. He gave me a lot of my personality training.”

It was Mahan’s advice that gave Murray his first break, in sports administration with the Tidewater Tides of the South Atlantic, or “Sally” League. After that, he served a tour in the Marine Corps Reserve, and then returned to baseball as assistant GM of the politically incorrectly named Atlanta Crackers. He went into the restaurant business for a time, but Mahan, who by then was Villanova’s athletic director, persuaded him to return to the university for a sports administration job.

“He called and said, ‘You have 24 hours to decide whether you want to come back here to be sports information director at Villanova.” Murray said yes. It didn’t take anywhere near 24 hours.

Murray loved the job, but a few years later, Mahan changed his life again.

“I was in the best job I ever had, but one day Artie said, ‘The Eagles are looking for an assistant PR director. You should go down and get interviewed.’”

Murray got the job. In time, through a lot of hard work and creative thinking, he moved up through the ranks to become the team’s general manager, and it was during those years that the team had its spectacular run.

One day, one of the Eagles’ players received the phone call no parent wants to receive. Murray remembers it well. It was a turning point for him, too.

“Fred Hill, who was a central casting tight end from Southern Cal, got a call from wife Fran at St. Christopher’s. His daughter Kim was diagnosed with leukemia.”

Leonard Tose being Leonard Tose,  he rallied to the support of Hill and his family, and looked for bigger ways to help. He threw his support and his money into “Eagles Fly for Leukemia,” and he asked Murray to lead the effort.

“We had the first big event,” Murray recalls. “It was a fashion show. Then the boss called me over. He had many addictions, but No. 1 was his generosity.” Tose asked Murray to go go to St. Christopher’s to find out how else the Eagles might help. “I had no idea how that would be part of my life.”

Murray visited St. Christopher’s and talked to one of the top docs, who admitted the hospitals had many crying needs, but he knew someone who needed help even more. “He looked around, and he says, ‘We need everything, but there’s somebody with a greater need. He said, ‘Her name name is Dr. Audrey Evans, and she’s a world famous oncologist. She’s at Children’s Hospital at 18th and Bainbridge.’ So I went to see this lady, Dr. Evans. I said ‘My name is Jim Murray. I’m from the Philadelphia Eagles,’ and she says ‘What are they?’ I said we’re on TV every week,’ and she says, ‘I don’t have a TV.” I said, ‘We have money.’”

That got Dr. Evans’’ attention.

Tose wound up supporting Evans’ proposal to create  special rooms for pediatric patients called “Life Lanes.”

But a later meeting with Dr. Evans led to something even bigger.

Murray met up with Evans at the Blue Line, a bar at the Spectrum, where he was going to present her with a check. “I said, now, what else do you need?’ and she said ‘It would be great if the parents of these children had someplace to stay.’ She said, ‘I want to buy a YMCA.’ I said, What you need is a house’ So she said, ‘Well, get us a house.’ Now I’m back to the rosaries.”

Murray had contacts in the MacDonald’s chain, and that was how he found out the restaurants were about to introduce the Shamrock Shake for St. Patrick’s Day. Murray asked for 25 cents off the sale of every Shamrock Shake to go toward the house. But then Murray got a call back from McDonald’s CEO Ed Renzi. ‘He said, if we give you all the money, can we call it Ronald McDonald House?’ I said, you can call it Hamburger House, anything you like.’”

That was in October 1974. Today there are 336 Ronald McDonald Houses in 35 countries.

Forty years later, Murray still can’t believe the project has come so far. And he still visits Ronald McDonald Houses just to see how the project still changes lives.

He recently visited the Philadelphia house with Dr. Evans.

“I never get used to it. There was a beautiful young girl from West Virginia, and her baby had a serious condition. I looked at Dr. Evans as she was looking at this young girl’s face, and I thought, it was exactly 40 years back at the Blue Line Bar that this started, and I thought about the kind of heart it took to bring these things together.”

News, People

Remembering Bishop Joseph P. McFadden

Bishop Joseph McFadden

Bishop Joseph McFadden, chaplain emeritus of the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade, joined St. Thomas More alums in singing the school song.

Harrisburg Bishop Joseph P. McFadden, a well-known and loved member of Philadelphia’s Irish community before his upstate appointment in June 2010, has passed away. His death was announced today by the diocese. 

Bishop McFadden, who served as chaplain of the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade, died unexpectedly while attending a meeting of the Catholic Bishops of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

We interviewed Bishop McFadden not long after his installation. He could not have been more gracious and down-to-earth. We’re grateful to have known him.

Here is the interview.

An “average Joe” is about to helm the Harrisburg Diocese.

Of course, Philadelphia Auxiliary Bishop Joseph P. McFadden is really far from ordinary. In naming him this week to become the 10th bishop of Harrisburg, Pope Benedict XVI surely must have recognized Bishop McFadden’s solid record of accomplishment.

McFadden has been a priest for 29 years, but he was someone special right from the word go. After a brief stint as assistant pastor of Irish St. Laurence Parish in Highland Park, Delaware County, he become administrative secretary to then Cardinal Krol in 1982. Less than 10 years later, he was appointed honorary prelate to Pope John Paul II—as a monsignor.

He later served as president of Cardinal O’Hara High School, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Downington and, in June 2004, auxiliary bishop under Cardinal Justin Rigali.

Not bad for a guy who grew up in St. Rose of Lima parish in West Philly, graduate of St. Thomas More, and high school basketball coach.

McFadden, contacted Friday just before he left to catch a flight to Rome, was characteristically humble when asked about his sure and steady rise. “For most priests the goal is to answer the call of God and to be of service to Jesus and the preaching of his gospel as a parish priest,” he said. “I don’t think a young man focuses on becoming a bishop. I didn’t. As bishop, a priest is still called to preach the gospel, but it means that you have responsibility of a larger flock, a larger group of people. when God gives you responsibility, you expect to have to answer to that responsiblilty. It’s one thing for an individual to open himself to the grace of God. It’s quite another thing to be responsible for shepherding other people in response to the same call.”

Throughout his rise to the top, Joseph McFadden apparently has not forgotten his humble roots, said Michael Bradley, director of the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade, who has known him for a long time—including McFadden’s more recent service as parade chaplain and chaplain emeritus.

“He (McFadden) was president of Cardinal O’Hara when I was athletic director at Broomall,” said Bradley. “We knew of each each other for a long time. He went to Tommy Moore, and my dad went there. But we became close in the ’90s.”

Over the years, Bradley could see how much McFadden loved the Philly parade. The future bishop would march every year with the group from O’Hara. In 2007, when chaplain Father Kevin Trautner died, Bradley named him chaplain. That first year, McFadden spent some time providing commentary in the CBS3 booth. “They raved about him,” said Bradley.

What has appealed most to Bradley about this well-connected prelate, who in his time has tackled some nettlesome issues—including the closing of Cardinal Dougherty and Northeast Catholic high schools—is how down-to-earth he is. “I’ve always felt that he is a regular guy who became a bishop,” said Bradley. “He has an ability, when you’re talking to him, to make you feel like he’s your best friend.”

Bradley, for one, is not happy to see this best friend go. While acknowledging that McFadden’s promotion to preside over the Harrisburg Diocese is a great honor, Bradley wishes the Vatican had looked inside the Harrisburg Diocese to “hire from within. He asked, “Why can’t they get their own good guy?”

Philly’s “good guy” understands that his local friends might miss him. At the same time, he hopes he’ll be able to maintain at least some of his ties to the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Parade while forging new ties with the Irish-Americans of Harrisburg. “I would like to hope I can,” he said. “I love the Philly parade.

My parents, as you know, were born in Ireland. I’m proud of my Irish heritage. the parade has been such a great experience the last several years. It really has become a wonderful event in Philadelphia.”

News

Philly Loves a Parade

A winning smile on this little marcher from St. Katherine of Siena School.

A winning smile on this little marcher from St. Katherine of Siena School.

Mary Frances Fogg said it best. “This makes me happy,” said the second vice president of the Philadelphia St. Patrick’s Day Observance Association, as she watched the dancers from the Cummins School perform in front of the reviewing stand on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in the city on Sunday afternoon.

By the looks of the smiling faces lining the parade route—and there were thousands of them—that was the standard sentiment. The weather—it got up to 59 which, with the bright sunshine, felt balmy—may have brought out the crowds, or it might have been the 180 marchers, dancers, floats, and local celebrities that helped turn the city’s ersatz Champs-Elysee into a sea of green. Whatever it was, it had regular parade participants wondering if it was a record. But then again, who wanted to count? Look, here comes another pipe band! Did you see those dancers? Oh, wow! Clowns!

The theme of this year’s parade honored the 19th anniversary of the Irish Memorial was built near Penns Landing: The Irish Memorial: A Decade of Remembrance.

We have several hundred pictures to share and a nice video of Ring of Honor member, Timmy Kelly, singing (at the bottom of the page)–another Philly parade tradition.

Parade Set 1

Parade Set 2

Parade Set 3

Parade Set 4

Parade Set 5

Parade Set 6

 

And here are the winners of the day:

Hon. James H.J. Tate Award
(Founded 1980, this was named the Enright Award Prior to 1986)
Sponsored by: Mike Driscoll & Michael Bradley
Group that Best Exemplified the Spirit of the Parade
2013 AOH / LAOH Division 51 Fishtown

Msgr. Thomas J. Rilley Award (Founded 1980)
Outstanding Fraternal Organization
Sponsored by: AOH Division 39 Msgr. Thomas J. Rilley
2013 Cavan Society

George Costello Award (Founded 1980)
Organization with the Outstanding Float in the Parade
Sponsored by: The Irish Society
2013 Irish of Havertown

Hon. Vincent A. Carroll Award (Founded 1980)
Outstanding Musical Unit Excluding Grade School Bands:
Sponsored by: John Dougherty IBEW Local 98
2013 Philadelphia Emerald Society

Anthony J. Ryan Award (Founded 1990)
Outstanding Grade School Band
Sponsored by: The Ryan Family
2013 St. Aloysius Academy Marching Band

Walter Garvin Award (Founded 1993)
Outstanding Children’s Irish Dance Group
Sponsored by: Walter Garvin Jr.
2013 Cummins School of Irish Dance

Marie C. Burns Award (Founded 2003)
Outstanding Adult Dance Group
Sponsored by: Philadelphia Emerald Society
2013 Nicholl School of Irish Dance

Joseph E. Montgomery Award (Founded 2006)
Outstanding AOH and/or LAOH Divisions
Sponsored by: AOH Div. 65 Joseph E. Montgomery
2013 AOH / LAOH Division 39 Monsignor Thomas J. Riley
Joseph J. “Banjo” McCoy Award (Founded 2006)
Outstanding Fraternal Organization
Sponsored by: Schuylkill Irish Society
2013 Southwest St. Patrick’s Club

James F. Cawley Parade Director’s Award (Founded 2006)
Outstanding Irish Performance or Display Chosen by the Parade Director
Sponsored by: AOH Division 87 Port Richmond
2013 Celtic Flame School of Irish Dance

Father Kevin C. Trautner Award (Founded 2008)
Outstanding School or Religious Organization that displays their Irish Heritage while promoting Christian Values
Sponsored by: Kathy McGee Burns
2013 Bishop Shanahan High School Band and Cheerleaders

Maureen McDade McGrory Award (Founded 2008)
Outstanding Children’s Irish Dance Group Exemplifying the Spirit of Irish Culture through Traditional Dance.
Sponsored by: McDade School of Irish Dance
2013 McDade School of Irish Dance

James P. “Jim” Kilgallen Award(Founded 2011)
Outstanding organization that best exemplifies the preservation of Irish-American unity through charitable endeavors to assist those less fortunate at home and abroad.
Sponsored by: Michael Bradley
2013 Knights of Columbus Philadelphia Chapter

Mary Theresa Dougherty Award (Founded 2012)
Outstanding organization dedicated to serving the needs of God’s people in the community.
Sponsored by: St. Patrick’s Day Observance Association Board
2013 St. John’s Hospice

Paul J. Phillips Jr. Award (Founded 2012)
Outstanding parade marshal.
Sponsored by: Robert M. Gessler
2013 Steve Burns

Phillip ‘Knute’ Bonner Award (Founded 2013)
Outstanding fraternal group.
Sponsored by: Parade Board
2013 DCFD Emerald Society Pipes and Drums (Washington DC)

News, People

Getting Sashed

Timmy Kelly reading his plaque in braille.

Timmy Kelly reading his plaque in braille.

Singer Timmy Kelly ran his fingers over the plaque given to him last night by the Hibernian Hunger Project to commemorate his induction into the St. Patrick’s Ring of Honor, delightedly reading the words out loud. Blind since he was an infant, Kelly ‘s fingers picked out the braille writing that the sighted could barely make out.

“When we were doing these, Bob Gessler [parade committee president] said, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could get him one in braille’ and I thought, ‘I think I can do that,'” said Kathy Fanning, president of the Philadelphia County Board of the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians, who was one of the presenters. “I took it to someone I knew at the Overbrook School [for the blind] and we got it in braille.”

It was a touching moment among many as the parade committee honored Grand Marshal Harry Marnie and members of the Ring of Honor, most of whom are affiliated with anti-hunger projects in the city–a nod to this year’s theme, The Philadelphia Irish Memorial: A Decade of Remembrance.They include MANNA executive director Sue Daugherty; Hibernian Hunger Project director Ed Dougherty; WMMR DJs Preston Elliot and  Steve Morrison who raise tons of food for the needy in their annual Camp Out for Hunger, Gerry Huot, volunteer coordinator for St. John’s Hospice; Jim Tanghe, president of Shamrock Food Distributors which supplies food for the Hunger Project; Sister Mary Scullion, founder of Project H.O.M.E,  which works with the region’s homeless; Will O’Brien, special projects coordinator at Project H.O.M.E.; as well as Dan Harrell, who has been helping to bring a group of basketball players and musicians from St. Malachy’s College in Belfast to the US every year.

The Ring of Honor members got their sashes, along with the grand marshal, at a special dinner at the Doubletree Hotel in downtown Philadelphia.