Source: Irish Catholic Media Office
Today Bishop John Kirby, chair of the Irish Episcopal Commission for Emigrants, departs for the United States of America for a twelve-day visit to meet with Irish emigrants, prisoners and their representatives in Boston and in San Francisco. Bishop Kirby will be accompanied by the bishops' emigrant officer, Mr Brian Hanley.
The purpose of the visit is to underpin the relevance of this Church outreach as a key support to the lived experience of Irish emigrants of different generations and backgrounds, as well as to recognise the Trojan work of the staff and volunteers of the Irish Apostolate USA.
The Irish Apostolate USA is the joint response of the Irish and United States Catholic Bishops to the needs of Irish immigrants in the United States. There are six member centres of the Irish Apostolate, as well as a Presentation Sister working with Aisling Irish Community Center in New York, who works specifically with the bishops' Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas. 2017 marks the 30th year of service to Irish emigrants of the Boston centre, and the 20th year of service of the San Francisco centre.
The centres and their chaplains work closely with the Irish embassies and consulates across the United States, and Bishop Kirby will be meeting with the ambassador and two of the Consulates General during the visit.
Before departing for the US Bishop Kirby said: "The Church in Ireland has a long tradition of supporting our emigrants, both pastorally and practically. It is heart-breaking to see our people leave but our strong family and parish ties are a valuable support network for our emigrants. However there are a large number of undocumented Irish emigrants living a twilight existence in the US, and it is this vulnerable group that I am most concerned about."
Bishop Kirby continued: "Each year special collections are undertaken in a number of dioceses for emigrants and these funds provide financial assistance to Irish centres in the US, the UK and elsewhere so as to develop key services and supports for the more vulnerable members of the Irish community abroad. The generosity of parishioners at home shows a keen awareness of the challenge emigration poses to our culture, both historically and up to the present. I hope to convey this positive message of support to the staff and volunteers in our centres in America."
The Irish Pastoral Centre in Boston was founded in 1987 in direct response to the large increase in Irish immigrants in the Greater Boston area and is located in Saint Brendan's Parish in Dorchester, Massachusetts. It offers a comprehensive range of caring and culturally appropriate spiritual, family, social, legal, and educational services to more than 1,300 vulnerable and at-risk immigrants of various ethnic backgrounds of all ages who are in need and living in Greater Boston.
During his visit to Boston Bishop Kirby will meet a cross section of Irish emigrants: parents and emigrants of all ages. Bishop Kirby will also meet with An Tánaiste and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Ms Francis Fitzgerald TD, Minister Brendan Griffin, Ireland's Ambassador to the United States His Excellency Mr Daniel Mulhall and with other Irish diplomats, members of Boston's clergy, senior police officers and with Mr Ray Flynn, former mayor of Boston and US ambassador to the Vatican.
In San Francisco Bishop Kirby will visit the Irish Immigration Pastoral Center to meet staff and volunteers. Founded in 1997, the mission of the IIPC is to provide a home away from home for Irish immigrants in the Western United States. In essence, it is a parish without boundaries offering spiritual, social, medical, educational, legal, and financial guidance and advice to Irish who are thousands of miles away from home and family. The IIPC helps to lessen the feeling of loneliness, isolation and frustration experienced by newly arrived Irish immigrants, as well as by providing practical assistance to members of our community.
Bishop Kirby will join Immigrant Chaplain and President of the Irish Immigration Pastoral Center, Father Brendan McBride for a series of events to celebrate the 20th anniversary of both the IIPC and Immigrant Chaplaincy in San Francisco. Bishop Kirby will celebrate Mass and meet with 150 members of the IIPC Active Retirement Club; followed by meetings with the Archbishop of San Francisco Salvatore Cordileone; Consul General of Ireland, Robert O'Driscoll and the board of directors of the Irish Immigration Pastoral Center. Bishop Kirby will also meet with Irish-born priests and religious serving their ministry in the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as members of the undocumented Irish community.
Bishop Kirby will also visit the site of the balcony collapse in Berkeley, California and bless the trees planted by President Michael Higgins in memory of six young Irish people who died and seven who were injured after a balcony on which they were standing collapsed in June 2015. The group was celebrating a 21st birthday party.
Bishop Kirby will close his trip with the celebration of a Mass for the Irish community at Saint Philip's Church, 725 Diamond Street, San Francisco to mark the 20th anniversary celebration on 11 November.