Posted by: irishhungercomm | June 20, 2010

South Florida Great Hunger Commemoration, May 30, 2010

The commemoration was an even bigger success than last year. Several hundred people packed the church and with the bagpiper playing and the soulful words of  The Fields of Athenry there was not a dry eye to be seen – as the old saying goes.

Everybody in this community is so gratified that we are, after all these years, taking the time to remember the Victims or the Great Hunger. Many had heard stories of the “Famine” but never quite realized the horror of what went on.  Now they are finding out details and understand the enormity of this terrible period in the history of their own people.

Of course, Marie Smith has spent the last several years educating the community through symposiums and exhibits but now we have reached a point where she is seeing the fruits in people having a stronger understanding of the reality. This is what is coming about as an extension of having a planned Commemoration Day every year. This is just the start and people of Irish descent, and others, will come to learn more. Many feel it is also important to know that events such as the Great Hunger, and atrocities and genocides throughout history, affected many countries and peoples. They realize that horrors are still going on today and will now be more sensitive to these issues.

Details of the Mass can be found below in an article reprinted from the Miami Herald. Marie Smith and her team of volunteers are to be applauded for the efforts that made this great day happen in our community. It is also important to know that this event has the support of all the major Irish American organizations in the area.  A special huge thank you also to Bishop John Noonan and the other priests who celebrated the Mass – six more in total. Those who spoke were certainly knowledgeable on the subject of the Great Hunger and recounted facts with passion.

After Mass there was a Wake for the Victims at The Field, a local pub and restaurant, with potato soup to symbolize what might have meant the difference all that time ago.  Music, dancing and storytelling kept all in touch with their Irish heritage – and representatives of the various groups got to tell us their aspect relating to that heritage and the duties that come with it.

As far as those duties being timely right now, in particular, Ciaran Staunton, President of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, held a meeting attended by many who are intent on helping the Irish immigrants of today.  Ciaran explained how important it is to support new immigration legislation that is being introduced by Senator Charles Schumer. He also gave those who attended a very clear understanding of how they can be effective by working through the American political process. Anyone who is interested in being put in touch with this effort should leave a note in the comments section below.

The event was well covered by the press – newspapers and radio.  Here is the Miami Herald article.

Miami Herald, May 31, 2010

Famine Victims Remembered

To pay tribute to the victims of the Irish Potato Famine, a special Mass was held Sunday in Hollywood.

BY DIANA MOSKOVITZ
dmoskovitz@MiamiHerald.com

A lone bagpiper greeted visitors Sunday at Little Flower Church in Hollywood, his instrument playing the solemn The Pikeman’s March, a traditional Irish tune.

The melody wafted inside, where he and hundreds gathered for a Gaelic Mass to commemorate one of Ireland’s worst disasters, the Great Potato Famine of the 1800s.

Millions died from starvation or left the country during what was known as The Great Hunger.

On Sunday, several hundred people gathered and remembered. The flags of the United States and Ireland stood side by side. The traditional Catholic Mass included English and Gaelic.

“It’s an important part of Irish history,” said Oliver Kerr, a native of Ireland and immediate past president of the South Florida Emerald Society. Kerr came dressed in a proper suit – and a tie dotted with shamrocks and American flags.

This was the second year the Gaelic Mass was held.

The green-and-white program asked on its cover, “That we may not in silence be seen done unto others that which was done unto our own.”

Miami Auxiliary Bishop John Noonan, a native of Ireland, spoke about how the famine destroyed more than just the land. It also tore into the culture and faith of the Irish.  “The Irish were reduced to what we today would call migrant workers,” he said. During the famine, millions died or left the country for hope of better lives elsewhere. He also used the moment to make the lesson relevant. “There are famines still in our world today,” he said, noting the Biblical lessons to feed the poor, clothe the naked and help those in need.

Organizer Marie Tierney Smith spoke to the crowd about the importance of never forgetting what happened. “The diaspora all over the world is commemorating,” she said.

Ciaran Staunton, president of the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, asked the crowd to support immigration reform.

Then the voice of the crowd lifted as they sang the chorus of  The Fields of Athenry, an Irish folk song set during the famine. In the song, a man named Michael is sentenced to transport to Australia for stealing food for his starving family.


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