Originally, the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) movement was founded by laymen in 16th century Ireland to protect clergy of the Catholic faith from persecution by the English monarchy. By the 19th century, the organization was extended to America to promote the interests and welfare of Irish immigrants in the New World. Beginning on the East coast in 1806, the spirit and organizing abilities of the AOH moved across the continent, just as the Irish did, to offer aid and comfort to those in need. The Hibernians provided social and religious gatherings as well as assistance to the needy. They also helped these Irish to maintain their Celtic identity and culture. Wherever they gathered, AOH organizations were set up, the intent being to aid newcomers with counsel and assistance, helping them to feel comfortable in their surroundings. Additionally, they could meet some of “their own” and maintain their culture so that art, dance, music and sports would be fostered and preserved. The order also provided a bridge with Ireland for those generations removed from the motherland.
The primary purpose of the organization is to promote Friendship, Unity and Christian Charity among its members, to uphold and sustain loyalty to the government of the United States of America by the members of the organization living here in America; to aid and advance by all legitimate means, the aspirations and endeavors of the Irish people to complete and absolute independence; and to foster the ideals and cultivate the history and traditions of the Irish people throughout the world.
Past beneficiaries of our fund raising efforts include The Franciscan Center, The Pregnancy Center, Pope John Paul II High School, Saint Gregory the Great Catholic School, Saint Francis Catholic School, the religious education programs in Beaufort County parishes, the ministry to Allendale Prison, student scholars in the county, youth ministry programs and many more.
Our division, the Bishop Patrick Lynch Division, started with one man, Jerry Kelley, in the summer of 2003 in the kitchen of his home. He enlisted parish support from the pastor of St. Gregory the Great, Father Gregory West, and asked parishioners from all the local parishes to attend a meeting at his home to familiarize them with the AOH. That meeting took place and 15 interested men were sworn in that day, becoming charter members. Jerry was the first president and led the way in bringing the AOH rules and structure to the group. From day one, the spouses of the members were very supportive and helped in building the organization. In 2004, the ladies were chartered as the St. Ciara Division of the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians (LAOH). Not surprisingly, the first full term president was Kathleen Kelley. The two divisions have worked hand-in-hand since then. The first charity to receive our support was Friends of Carolina Hospice and our first charity event was the Festival of Christmas in Beaufort. In December of 2003 we participated for the first time in the Bluffton Christmas parade.
This year we participated in supporting the South Carolina AOH raffle in support of state charities. Our division sold 75 of the 300 authorized tickets, a record.
This year we again marched in the Hilton Head Island parade, led by our chaplain, Monsignor Ronald Cellini. Tim O’Connor is our current president and Maureen Binder is president of the LAOH.
We are dedicated to promoting Friendship, Unity and Christian Charity, to fostering the ideals and perpetuating the history and traditions of the Irish Catholic people in the United States; actively promoting Irish culture and language in America; and to encourage civic participation by all of our members while supporting our priests and religious and nourishing Catholic education in the Low Country. May God inspire our work and may the apostle of our race bless and guide our efforts.
Anyone interested in learning more about the AOH, LAOH and the Irish Heritage Society or to become a member, please contact Jim Coyne at 419-360-2926 or Tim O’Connor at 203-994-5415 for the AOH or Barbara Smith for the LAOH at 843-705-5841.