It’s an old Irish legend almost forgotten. March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, is the date St. Patty takes the “cold stone” out of the water and it’s time for spring planting. He must have forgotten this year because it was downright cold on St. Patrick’s Day and not much better on Sunday, the 16th, when the Irish of Philadelphia held their big parade.
As always the parade was preceded by a Mass celebrated by Archbishop Charles Chaput at St. Patrick’s Church near Rittenhouse Square. And as always it was probably the largest congregation the stately old church will see in the year.
(See our extensive photo gallery with dozens of photos of the Mass and parade here.)
Front and center was Jimmy Murray, Philadelphia’s favorite toastmaster, who was Grand Marshal for the parade to follow.
“I’m a back pew guy,” Murray said. “This is humbling, sitting in the front pew and listening to the choir sing ‘Our Lady of Knock.’ I felt like I was at my own funeral! But it isn’t for me, it is for my family and the people I can never pay back.”
That choir he mentioned was the alumni choir of St. James High School, Chester, which closed 21 years ago. Old Bulldogs never forget their alma mater, nor do they forget their mostly Irish heritage.
High school bands are one of the favorite features of the big parade, and among them was the Cardinal O’Hara Band with retiring school president Bill McCusker leading the way.
“I’ve been doing this for 25 years and before that I marched with Archbishop Kennedy High School,” McCusker said. “I’ll be back next year; I’ve reserved a place with Cardinal O’Hara. It’s a wonderful day when everybody is Irish.”
Undoubted Irish was Mary Lou MacDonald who marched with the dignitaries as a member of the Irish Parliament representing the City of Dublin.
“Dublin is the greatest city in the world,” she said, adding diplomatically “next to Philadelphia. I think this is fantastic, colorful and a real statement about the Irish in America and the contribution of Irish people to America and across the world.”
Of course you can’t have a parade without awards, and with a couple of hundred marching units the judges had their work cut out for them. Just to name a few: the Second Street Irish were named Outstanding Fraternal Organization; Bishop Shanahan Cheerleaders and Marching Band were the Outstanding Musical Unit; Rince Ri School of Irish Dance was voted best Children’s Irish Dance Group.
Lou Baldwin is a freelance writer, proudly Irish, who lives in Philadelphia.
Help keep Catholic media free, support CatholicPhilly.com
You may have noticed “pay walls” greeting you when you visit the websites of newspapers and magazines, both large and small. These mechanisms allow you to read a few articles for free before you’ve got to pay an annual fee if you want to see more.
You won’t find a pay wall on CatholicPhilly.com because we’re more than a news organization. We’re informing, inspiring and forming readers in the Catholic faith every day through the news, features and commentaries that we post on this site and share across social media.
It costs money to provide high-quality coverage of the local Catholic communities we primarily serve, while also distributing national and world news of interest to Catholics, plus the orthodox teachings of the Catholic faith.
Help us in this mission by making a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
or by credit card: