By Robert Somerville
Over the course of the last 30 years at the Irish Pastoral Centre, we have welcomed many familiar faces to the city of Boston. One of the most popular visitors to Boston within the Irish community is former President of Ireland, Dr. Mary McAleese. On two occasions in the last ten years, the Irish Pastoral Centre has been fortunate to receive two official visits from President McAleese; once while in office, and another following the completion of her second term as President.
In 2009, the Irish Pastoral Centre held an official opening of its ‘Senior Program’, which was initiated by the IPC in 2007. It was decided to coordinate the official opening of our senior services with an official State visit to Boston by President McAleese and her husband, Martin, as Dr. McAleese had placed a focus on elder issues during her Presidency. President McAleese had previously co-sponsored the creation of a senior help-line, a program she would later introduce to the United States, via the Ashling Center in New York and eventually here at the Irish Pastoral Centre in Boston.
The official opening event of the IPC’s senior programming was held at Florian Hall on the 27th of May, 2009. Hundreds of members of the Irish community, young and old, attended the event to celebrate the development of the IPC’s services and, most importantly, to warmly welcome President McAleese to the city of Boston. Dr. McAleese and her husband, Martin, were greeted by Sr. Marguerite Kelly, then IPC Executive Director, Mark Mathers, then IPC Board Chairperson, Cora Flood, Senior Outreach coordinator and Kevin O’Sullivan, Senior Program volunteer, to name a few.
Speaking to the large crowd gathered at Florian Hall, President McAleese acknowledged the importance of community organizations, like the IPC, as meeting places for immigrants and their families. Of the IPC, Dr. McAleese communicated the appreciation of the Irish community by stating “Thank goodness there is that space that helps the Irish [to] find each other easily because we can't live without each other”.
President McAleese followed in the footsteps of her predecessor Mary Robinson, by displaying insight into the emigrant experience and acknowledging the importance of the diaspora to modern Ireland. "It's one of the great characteristics of the Irish that no matter where we are from […]once we are in a place like Boston we go to a lot of bother to establish places and spaces where we can be clans to one another, clans without frontiers, friends and families to one another.”
In 2013, the IPC reached out to Dr. McAleese to invite her to be honored at the organization’s annual banquet celebration. As a Visiting Scholar at Boston College at the time, Dr. McAleese was delighted to engage with the Boston Irish community once again, and attended the celebratory event as guest of honor. The IPC extended the invitation as an acknowledgement of Dr. McAleese’s support of the organization, the Irish community in Boston and as thanks for the work which she conducted both North and South of the border in helping mend the ‘repressed friendships’ between our island’s people.
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