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Local Ancient Order of Hibernians Division Promotes Irish Heritage All Year Long

Beannachti na Naomh Phadraig duit. In the Irish language, this means “Blessings of Saint Patrick to you.”

St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland is considered a Holy Day of Obligation in the Catholic faith. Traditionally, people started their day with mass and then went home to a large dinner and celebrations with family and friends.

Unlike America, there were no parades, large beer-drinking festivals, bar hopping, and the like. Nowadays, with TV and the internet, Ireland is becoming more like America, with parades and all. All Irish, both here and abroad, celebrate the day.

One organization, the John P. Maloney Division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians, is a large part of the celebrations here in town.

According to Christopher Norris, President of the local Division of the Hibernians, the group has marched every year in Williamsport’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade and had large social events with great Irish music for their members.

The local Division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians is named for John P. Maloney, a Williamsport policeman who was slain in the line of duty in 1907.

The Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) is an Irish Catholic men’s organization. “We are dedicated to St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, sworn to the protection of the Catholic Clergy, defense of the Constitution of the United States, and the advancement of the Irish culture,” Norris told Webb Weekly. “The motto of this organization is, ‘Friendship, Unity and true Christian Charity.’ We are a Fraternal, Beneficial, Social, Religious, and Charitable organization. Some of their larger charities are located here in the USA and Ireland.”

The AOH was founded in New York City and the coal fields of eastern Pennsylvania in 1836. Their goal in this country was to protect Irish immigrants from animosity shown to recent newcomers.

According to Norris, members of the AOH must be of Irish birth or descent, at least 16 years of age, and of good moral character. Local units are known as ‘Divisions’, and are located throughout the entire country. In Pennsylvania, there are 67 Divisions numbering over 10,000 members.

The local Division here in Williamsport was founded in 1889 and currently has 50 members. Norris was formerly the AOH Pennsylvania State President and the current Pennsylvania State Irish language Chairman.

“The Irish immigrants and their descendants have worked here in the lumber industry, railroads, and various other industries here in the city and local area. They have been a large part of the ethnic fabric of this city and continue to contribute to its growth and well-being today,” Norris stated.

The local AOH meets the first Wednesday of the month at the Msgr. Fleming Center, 711 W. Edwin Street.

If you are interested in joining the AOH, you can contact Norris at 570-506-6740. The good people at the AOH will give you “Cead Mille Failte” or “100,000 Welcomes.”