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Irish fraternity remembers and serves
Fredericksburg's Own Irish Fraternity!

 Thomas F. Meagher commanded the famed Irish Brigade.
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Date published: 3/17/2013

THE ANCIENT Order of Hibernians can trace its motto, "Friendship, Unity, and Christian Charity," to the Defenders of 1565 Ireland. It is the oldest Catholic fraternal organization in the United States.

In the beginning, its mission was protection of Catholic priests who risked death for keeping the faith alive. When the Penal Laws were implemented and Irish men and women were stripped of every basic human right for more than 100 years (1697-1826), the AOH mission expanded to include aid and comfort to the Irish people as a whole.

Irish immigrants formed the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America on May 4, 1836. Gen. Thomas F. Meagher (pronounced "Maar") is one of 15 AOH divisions in the commonwealth, formed in 1987 and named in honor of the Irish-American statesman, patriot, and commander of the Irish Brigade.

Within Fredericksburg area parish communities, the Gen. Meagher Division brothers volunteer and raise money for local Catholic charities. The annual "trip for two to Ireland" raffle provides support to Mary's Shelter and the Paul Stefan Home; tuition and related expense relief to students accepted for attendance at area Catholic high schools; support for at least two children to participate in parish summer work camps; and more.

We host a project we named "Help and Hope for Meaningful Employment" to assist unemployed and underemployed people. This program provides guidance to improve job seekers opportunities through increasing self-awareness, confidence and credibility in interviews. Help includes crafting resumes, preparation for job interviews, and networking techniques.

Every year the Gen. Meagher Division commemorates Irish Brigade losses in Battle of Marye Heights in Fredericksburg. In the 2012 sesquicentennial commemoration of the Battle of Fredericksburg, we participated along with a color guard from the Irish Defense Force, dignitaries from County Kerry, the Embassy of Ireland, and the city of Fredericksburg. Division brothers displayed boxwood wreaths at the Irish Brigade Monument at City Dock and on the wall on Sunken Road at Marye Heights.

We participate in the annual Fredericksburg Religious Freedom March and in Irish cultural events, including the annual Rose of Tralee contest; St. Patrick celebrations, including the annual parade at the Blue & Gray Brewery; international festivals, including the Irish Fest at the Blue & Gray Brewery; and the St. Mary International Festival. In the recent past we have hosted a St. Patrick dinner at Holy Cross Academy and Irish breakfasts in cooperation with Mary's Shelter.

Today our membership also includes Catholic men associated with St. Patrick, St. Jude, St. Matthew, and St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception parishes.

Bill Halpin is president of the Gen. Thomas F. Meagher Division, Ancient Order of Hibernians in America.