By Sister Kathleen Leary
Special to The CS&T
“It’s a great day for the Irish everyday,” according to Seamus Boyle, the grand marshal of the 2010 St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Philadelphia.
Whether he is speaking of the motto of the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH), the theme of the parade, the claddagh ring or his personal philosophy, Boyle feels the connection.
The theme of this year’s parade, “Model of Unity for the Church and the World,” is much like the other mottos by which he lives. “All three mottos stand for what are most important to me,” said the proud, oldest child of immigrant parents, “faith, family and heritage.”
Born in Armagh, Ireland, the five Boyle children and their mother joined his father in the Mayfair section of Philadelphia in 1953. All five attended St. Matthew School. Later the boys went on to graduate from Father Judge High School and the girls from St. Hubert High School.
Involved in the AOH shortly after his marriage, Boyle reflected on how, “It seems most things in my life are the same. When we lived in Ireland, I attended the same school that my grandfather and father had ahead of me. I went back to Ireland in 1966 for a three-month visit and stayed for six years where I married my beloved Berna, whose maiden name was Boyle. We were married in the same church of the Sacred Heart in Cloghough as my grandparents and parents, and like my grandfather and father, I became a carpenter.”
It was when he bought a home in St. Leo Parish in the Tacony section of Philadelphia in 1971 that he first became acquainted with the AOH, of which he has been a member and has held “every position in the club from local secretary, treasurer, president and then up through chairs in the county.” He is now the national president of the AOH in America.
“When I first went to the club with my father the number of members was very small. One of the original members told me I needed to get some younger guys to keep our heritage going or the club would have to close. So, I got my brothers, their friends and their friends’ friends. In eight years, we went from 15 members to 800. Ours was the largest spanision in the United States at one time.”
Members of St. Jerome Parish since 1976, the Boyles have three grown children, Michael, Tara and Bronagh, and six grandchildren. Neither have ever forgotten their roots and are both involved in AOH. “Berna was one of two originals in forming the (former) AOH ladies’ auxiliary, now known as the Ladies’ Ancient Order of Hibernians,” Boyle said.
Retiring from his job in 1977 gave the generous Boyle more time to help those in need. “Members of AOH are very active wherever there is a need. I travel all over the United States to attend meetings of the National AOH,” he said.
“At our (local) meetings someone always knows of someone in need. It might be a guy hurt on the job who needs help with unpaid bills, our annual cancer walk, buying diapers, baby food, clothes or some fixing up for Blessed Margaret Costella’s Home for Unwed Mothers; or cooking, packaging and freezing meals for Aid for Friends,” he said.
And at the top of his list of helping people is reminding the younger members of the club that they need to be faithful.
“I remind them that when they are sick or in need, they know to turn to the Church,” he said.
Sister Kathleen Leary,S.S.J., is the archdiocesan coordinator for vocations to consecrated life.