St. Patrick’s Day was officially observed a bit early in Philadelphia on Sunday, March 10 with a Mass — where else? — at St. Patrick’s Church near Rittenhouse Square. Of course, the huge parade followed.
Past, present and future were the themes of Archbishop Charles Chaput’s homily at the early morning Mass, and the past had special resonance because the annual celebration is really about honoring heritage.
“What you do today is not only honor your culture but honor your parents and grandparents, the wonderful women and men of faith who preceded you,” he said.
The archbishop, whose heritage is mostly Native American and French flavored with a bit of Irish, spoke of his own past custom through which he would honor his mother, who lived to the age of 97.
As do many people he sent her flowers on her birthday, but he also sent flowers on his own birthday, “in order to thank her for being a mother and sacrificing herself for me as she did,” he said.
Especially remembered at the Mass were two recently deceased stalwarts of the St. Patrick’s Day Association who lived their faith and tradition and served in leadership at the association for more than half a century.
Philip “Knute” Bonner, a retired Philadelphia Police Officer and Battle of the Bulge survivor, was a long-time executive board member. Paul Phillips was a past president, and 40-year treasurer for the group.
Harry Marnie, a board member, current treasurer and president of the Emerald Society, which is made up of police and firefighters, was the grand marshal for this year’s parade. Because the theme for the parade would be the Philadelphia Irish Memorial to the Great Famine, the Ring of Honor was composed of Philadelphians who are active in poverty and hunger programs.
“It’s a beautiful day and a great honor to Harry and all of the Ring of Honor,” said Chris Phillips, a lector at the Mass. Now vice president of the association, he is following in the footsteps of Paul, his father.
“I’ve got my dad’s memory in mind today and all the good works he did,” he said. “I was born into this. My father was on the board in 1976 and I was born in 1963.”
As usual, the parade that followed did not disappoint. It was a glorious mixture of Ancient Order of Hibernians units, Irish bands, high school and grade school bands, kilted bagpipers, floats and dancers, especially children, from more Irish schools of dance than one could imagine.
The judges really had their job cut out for them in picking winners, and below are some of the awards they chose.
Honorable James H.J. Tate Award: AOH/LAOH Division 51, Fishtown.
Msgr. Thomas J. Rilley Award: Cavan Society.
George Costello Award: Irish of Havertown.
Hon. Vincent J. Carroll Award: Philadelphia Emerald Society.
Anthony J. Ryan Award: St. Aloysius Academy Marching Band.
Walter Garvin Award: Cummins School of Irish Dance.
Marie C. Burns Award: Nicholl School of Irish Dance.
Joseph E. Montgomery Award: AOH/LAOH Division 39.
Joseph J. “Banjo” McCoy Award: Southwest St. Patrick’s Club.
For the full list see Philadelphiastpatsparade.com, and if you missed the parade check out TV station CWPhilly 57, 1 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, March 17, St. Patrick’s Day.
Lou Baldwin is a freelance writer and a member of St. Leo Parish, Philadelphia.