By Sean Ryan - 11 November, 2017
The chair of the Irish Episcopal Commission for Emigrants Bishop John Kirby this week departed for the United States of America for a 12-day visit to meet with Irish emigrants, prisoners and their representatives in Boston and San Francisco. Bishop Kirby will be accompanied by the bishops’ emigrant officer Mr Brian Hanley.
The purpose of the visit is to underpin the relevance of this church outreach as a key support to the lived experience of Irish emigrants of different generations and backgrounds, as well as to recognise the Trojan work of the staff and volunteers of the Irish Apostolate USA.
The Irish Apostolate USA is the joint response of the Irish and United States Catholic Bishops to the needs of Irish immigrants in the United States. There are six member centres of the Irish Apostolate, as well as a Presentation Sister working with Aisling Irish Community Centre in New York, who works specifically with the Bishops’ Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas. 2017 marks the 30th year of service to Irish emigrants of the Boston centre, and the 20th year of service of the San Francisco centre.
The centres and their chaplains work closely with the Irish embassies and consulates across the United States, and Bishop Kirby will be meeting with the Ambassador and two of the Consulates General during the visit.
Before his departure, Bishop Kirby said, “The Church in Ireland has a long tradition of supporting our emigrants, both pastorally and practically. It is heartbreaking to see our people leave, but our strong family and parish ties are a valuable support network for our emigrants. However, there are a large number of undocumented Irish emigrants living a twilight existence in the US, and it is this vulnerable group that I am most concerned about.”
Bishop Kirby, who is Bishop of Clonfert, continued, “Each year special collections are undertaken in a number of dioceses for emigrants and these funds provide financial assistance to Irish centres in the US, the UK and elsewhere so as to develop key services and supports for the more vulnerable members of the Irish community abroad. The generosity of parishioners at home shows a keen awareness of the challenge emigration poses to our culture, both historically and up to the present. I hope to convey this positive message of support to the staff and volunteers in our centres in America.”
The Irish Pastoral Centre was set up in Boston in 1987, while the Irish Immigration Pastoral Centre in San Francisco was established in 1997.
In Boston Bishop Kirby will meet people from the Irish Pastoral Centre as well as Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald, Irish diplomats, members of Boston’s clergy and senior police officers. In San Francisco he will visit the site of the Berkeley balcony collapse and will bless the trees planted by President Michael D. Higgins to remember the young people who died there.