A Personal Crusade for Our Lady of KnockTrish Shea
A Personal Crusade for Our Lady of Knock
Upon arriving to the United States more than a century ago, a steady stream of Irish immigrants from Donegal resided in Philadelphia and made incalculable contributions to the community, including charitable groups, which were founded to support this onslaught of immigrants. Among them is the Donegal Society (now the Donegal Association, Philadelphia Chapter), which established a benevolent league in 1888 to support this emerging population.
Originally, the undeniable link between members of the Donegal Association and their ethnic roots in the city centered on preservation of their homeland identity, which eventually expanded to include charitable outreach. Mary Boyle, president of the city chapter, seeks to renew one aspect of that tangible Irish presence by re-igniting the group’s connection with The Miraculous Medal Shrine. Through a donation to the Shrine’s St. Vincent’s Rosary Walk, specifically Our Lady of Knock Shrine and Grotto, the Donegal Association members are one step closer to bridging their Irish bloodline with their cultural devotion to Mary.
Without question, Philadelphia’s Irish community has deep roots in the Germantown section of Philadelphia that include the Shrine. A considerable percentage of the Irish Diaspora, whose ancestors left Ireland in the 1800s, settled in Philadelphia looking for work. Many found employment as construction workers and contractors helping to build the Shrine and the Vincentians of the Eastern Province’s seminary in Germantown. Decades later, the development of the Knock Shrine and Grotto create the perfect marriage of the group’s connection to the Shrine, its devotion to Our Lady of Knock, and the spirit of its Irish ancestry.
Mary’s Gaelic roots and devotion to the Blessed Mother and Miraculous Medal prompted her to initiate a one-person campaign to encourage her fellow Association members to join the Shrine’s fundraising efforts for the construction of this spiritual site. “The Donegal Association has several focuses, one of them being the preservation
“There is that deep, deep connection of the Irish community at the Shrine,” says Mary Jo Timlin-Hoag, CEO of the Central Association of the Miraculous Medal, the organization overseeing the fundraising and development of the Rosary Walk and Knock Shrine. “The Donegal Association is a perfect fit, and they have been unbelievably gracious in supporting our Rosary Walk and Knock Shrine.”
of its Irish cultural heritage and another is charitable outreach,” remarks Mary during a recent interview. “Convincing my fellow Irish members to donate [to the Knock Shrine] was enthusiastically received as a tangible reassurance of their Irish ethnicity and connecting with the local community.”
But for several of the Association’s 90+ members, the relationship with the Shrine is more than a transcontinental tie with their relatives on the small green island at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. “Many [of our members] talk about their parents meeting at the Shrine, so they feel a real kinship with this place and wanted to see [the Knock Shrine and Grotto] come to fruition,” notes Mary, “and a fair number of members continue to come to the Monday Novenas on a pretty consistent basis.”
“There is that deep, deep connection of the Irish community at the Shrine,” says Mary Jo Timlin-Hoag, CEO of the Central Association of the Miraculous Medal, the organization overseeing the fundraising and development of the Rosary Walk and Knock Shrine. She should know given her family’s Donegal ancestry and Vincentian connection. “The Donegal Association is a perfect fit, and they have been unbelievably gracious in supporting our Rosary Walk and Knock Shrine.”
Additionally, Mary emphasizes how connecting with religious outdoor spaces, such as the Knock Shrine, is a sign and a symbol beyond the Catholic community, which includes the surrounding neighborhood. “People like that outdoor experience of praying,” adds Mary. She encourages fellow Irish communities, who care deeply about their ancestral roots and Our Lady of Knock’s message of prayer, to join the Donegal Association in creating this space of belief and hope.
“I think it’s an important message that the Shrine is going to continue to flourish in the future,” emphasizes Mary. “This creates an even tighter connection with the Irish because of Mary being Our Lady of Knock.”