Ladies’ Ancient Order of Hibernians celebrates first year

Patsy Bourke, left, and Julia Garrison-Wood, right, are founding members of the Mother Catherine McAuley Division of the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians. The chapter celebrated its first year anniversary in April. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

Patsy Bourke, left, and Julia Garrison-Wood, right, are founding members of the Mother Catherine McAuley Division of the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians. The chapter celebrated its first year anniversary in April. (Record Photo by Ruby Thomas)

By Ruby Thomas, Record Staff Writer

When members of the Father J. Ryan Division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians suggested their wives start a women’s order, the ladies didn’t hesitate.

The Mother Catherine McAuley Division of the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians (LAOH) celebrated its first anniversary in April. And in that year, the charitable organization has been busy following the example of their namesake, the Irish foundress of the Sisters of Mercy.

So far, the group has:

  • Collected diapers, formula and other items for the Golden Arrow Center on Shelby Street which supports mothers and babies.
    Supported St. Vincent De Paul with a food drive and collected Christmas gifts for kids.
  • Created and delivered Easter baskets and Valentine’s Day treat bags to children at Boys and Girls Haven.
  • Volunteered at the St. Joseph Children’s Home picnic.
  • Volunteered at Little Sisters of the Poor’s Turtle Derby event.
  • Contributed to the Columban Missionaries, Support Our Aging Religious (SOAR), Project St. Patrick (which offers scholarships to seminarians) and Right to Life.

The ladies of the Mother Catherine McAuley Division have also made their presence known around town by attending events such as the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, organized by the men’s division; the annual Memorial Mass for Life held in January at the St. Martin of Tours Church and a memorial in March to mark the 1855 “Bloody Monday.”

Later this month, they will be running the Irish Tea Room at the annual Louisville Irish Festival sponsored by the Irish Arts Foundation of Kentucky. The event will be on the Bellarmine University campus Sept. 26 and 27. Part of the proceeds will fund the group’s charitable causes.

Julia Garrison-Wood, president of the new women’s chapter, said during a recent interview, “This has been a faith journey .”

“We’ve been reaching out to the community,” she said. “We don’t have a lot of money at this point, but we give of our time.”

She described her fellow members as “talented ladies” who are all active in their churches and the community.

“We hold monthly meetings and have a lot of fun being together,” she added.

The division started with 15 members and has grown to 26 members. Garrison-Wood said that several of the women knew each other initially through their husbands who are members of the men’s order.

Wood noted that this chapter is the second to begin in the city of Louisville, though the only one currently active. The Our Lady of Limerick Division disbanded in the 1990s shortly after its president died.

The Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians Inc. (LAOH) is a national organization that started in Omaha, Neb., in 1894, according to Patsy Bourke, who studies Irish heritage and is a member of the group. Bourke said she can trace her Irish roots to the 1700s, when her ancestors arrived in the United States.

The national group was originally called “Daughters of Erin” and their primary role, Bourke noted, was to assist and protect young Irish girls coming to the United States.

Though the focus has changed over the years, Bourke said, the LAOH still operates on the motto “Friendship, Unity and Christian Charity.”

“The Irish people are grateful to us for preserving our heritage,” said Bourke. She said that on a recent trip to Ireland, some of the people she met expressed admiration for the Hibernians in the United States. “In Ireland they are taught about Hibernians, so when an Irish immigrant comes here they look for a Hibernian group who will help them.”

Bourke said that a young Irishman told her he chose to live in Louisville because he’d heard of the city’s strong Hibernian presence.

The group plans to take part in a national Hibernian convention, which will take place in Louisville in July of 2018.

“The bottom line is,” said Garrison-Wood, “we are a group of caring Irish-Catholic women wanting to spread the Gospel and the love of Christ and help those most in need.”

The Mother Catherine McAuley Division of the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians is open to Catholic women age 16 and older of Irish descent by birth or adoption. Eligibility is also extended to women married to or the mother of a Hibernian and members of religious orders. More information is available on their website www.laohlouisville.com.

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