Sunday, March 18th, 2018
If you come near me in the weeks leading up to the patronal feast and ask me about the St. Patrick’s Day celebrations associated with Old St. Patrick’s Church and around the city, some of the staff already know my annual response (or I should say my “beef”). For with rolling eyes and often a shaking head, I am quoted as saying: “my next parish is going to be a small quiet place in the country! Get me away from the Irish!” Well, first of all, Hurley, you are Irish and you live in the city and there’s really no small parishes or even country space anywhere in the vicinity of the Archdiocese of Chicago, so that’s not going to work. And secondly, I don’t really mean it! Truth be told, I love this time of the year and all the excitement that goes along with the various celebrations honoring St. Patrick and the many ways we express that devotion through the events associated with this magnificent church and our community. Oh I admittedly get anxious about what I’m going to say for our civic and community masses on this festive weekend, but when I put all that behind me, I really am deeply grateful for the chance to celebrate in this historic church and in a city that is home to a large number of the Irish diaspora.
St. Patrick’s Day (or what has become St. Patrick’s MONTH) reminds me (and I’m sure many of you) about the gift of family and heritage. Back in October of 2015, about 40 people from Old St. Pat’s went on a trip to Ireland with the purpose of participating in the Dublin marathon that year, which we did. Afterwards we spent the next 5 days traveling around Ireland and enjoying the incredible beauty of its landscape and people. As we made our way from Killarney up the west coast towards Galway City, we found ourselves at one point in County Clare. Though I was admittedly dozing off during the bus ride, I immediately perked up when the driver announced that we were approaching a little town called Milltown Malbay. I had never been there before and even though the bus wasn’t able to stop, when I heard the name of this town I immediately thought of my long deceased great aunt, Helen. She was born in Milltown Malbay, Co. Clare. Helen was not my aunt by-blood, but by adoption. She was born Helen Looney but because there were so many Looney children and the family was not able to care for all of them, my great grandfather John J. Hurley adopted Helen and likewise brought her, as a child, to the United States when he immigrated here.
When I heard the name of Milltown Malbay a rush of memories flooded my head as I fondly thought about Aunt Helen. She was one of my earliest heroes. With the hint of an Irish brogue and always laughing, Helen taught us some of the old familiar Irish tunes. She never married and worked in retail at Marshal Fields her entire career. There was no one more supportive and excited about my decision to enter the seminary than Aunt Helen. I will always be grateful to Helen for the incredible sacrifice she made by putting the down payment on my first real car as I began the seminary, knowing that I’d needed transportation to and from St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein. I absolutely adored this holy, simple woman from Clare! Her great spirit continues to nourish my soul.
Today is not only a day to remember our heroes of the past but to keep singing the tunes and celebrating the faith and heritage we are called to hand on, joyfully, to the next generation. Helen Looney Hurley was a “Dreamer” and she made the United States (Chicago) a great place because of her incredible love, goodness, culture, and sacrifice that she brought to this country. On this St. Patrick’s Day, may we continue praying through the intercession of Patrick the missionary and immigrant, for all those Dreamers from so many cultures who came here as children and continue to make this country the great place that it is.
Welcome to all of our visitors today celebrating this Holy festival in honor of Patrick. We are glad you’re here!
Happy St. Patrick’s Day,
Father Tom Hurley