The Ancient Order of Hibernians is the oldest Irish Catholic Fraternal Organization and the largest Irish Catholic society in the world. Their mission is to promote Friendship, Unity, and Christian Charity. When their history is understood, their relevance throughout their existence becomes clear. Which is why my good friend and business partner Paul always enlightened me on his heritage.

After the Normans invaded Ireland in 1171, the English forbade their subjects to adopt the Irish culture. This produced an English upper class and an Irish lower class society resulting in conflicts between the two classes for hundreds of years. In 1533, Henry VIII established the Church of England as the official national religion, and prohibited Catholicism. Irish land was confiscated using religion as justification. Violence followed as the Catholic Irish were targeted to minimize Rome’s power and wealth. Because their religion was outlawed and their culture was suppressed, the Irish were forced to practice and protect their religion and culture as an underground society. After centuries of persecution in their homeland, many Irish sailed to the New World where there was hope of religious freedom.

Unknown to those fleeing Ireland, religious freedom did not include Catholics because Colonial America was still a British colony. They tolerated various Protestant religions but Catholics were shunned because the colonists believed that the Irish were subject to a foreign head of state, namely, the Pope. After the Irish helped the Colonies to win independence from England, they were tolerated but still banned from holding public office unless they renounced the authority of the Pope. The Irish population increased as did antiCatholic sentiment. Racist actions, like the celebrating of Pope Day, where straw effigies of St. Patrick were burned and desecrated, caused violence between Irish-Americans and British descendants.

Extreme intolerance toward Irish Catholics in the 1800’s resulted in segregation, job discrimination, and the emergence of violent gangs claiming patriotism as a justification for their racist acts such as burning Catholic Churches and Irish owned homes and businesses. Eventually, Irish fraternal organizations began forming to care for each other and to protect their values and culture. Groups such as the Hibernian Friendship Society and the Society of St. Patrick became more defensive as a result of abusive discrimination, but secrecy became necessary. One of the secret societies of Ireland, the St. Patrick’s Fraternal Society (SPFS) established branches in America in 1836 in both NY and PA, which quickly grew. Two years later, the SPFS of America took the name of Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH). During the 1850’s, some of the defensive Irish fraternities coalesced into the Irish AOH. A common misconception is the AOH was founded in Ireland and brought to America.

As the years went by, Catholic Churches and Irish neighborhoods continued to be threatened and torched. The AOH continued to protect property and people and also provided monetary assistance to members. During and after the Civil War, Irish discrimination diminished. When the Ku Klux Klan emerged as a force of society, the AOH opposed them, as they opposed all ethnic bias. AOH fraternities were later established in England, Wales, Scotland, Canada, Virgin Islands, and Australia. The Ladies Auxiliary, Ancient Order of Hibernians (LAAOH) was established in 1894 exemplifying the acceptance and value placed on Irish women to an American society that still considered women second class citizens. Benevolence towards their fellow Irishman has always been a key factor of the AOH. As the Irish became more successful throughout the years, they supported various Catholic Charities and institutions. The AOH has provided disaster relief for events such as the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 and the Hurricane Katrina floods. The Hiberian Hunger Project provides food for the hungry to honor those who starved in the potato famine in Ireland. The AOH promotes education by offering scholarship programs and essay competitions to encourage students to learn about the Irish contributions to literature, science, and the edification of the United States. Parades, dances, and musical events sponsored by the Order raise millions of dollars for charity.

To become a member, one must be a male of age 16 years or older, Catholic, Irish by birth or descent, citizens of the United States, or who have declared their intentions to become citizens of the United States. Members believe ‘To be Irish is a Blessing, to be a Hibernian is an Honor.

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Ireland might not be known for its fancy cuisine but it does have its fair share of tasty and hearty dishes. A lot of popular Irish food gets its origins from England. Most of the famous dishes involve potatoes in one form or another so you can expect to eat those if you are interested in trying popular Irish food. Because, well, Ireland is famous for potatoes. If you are ready for some good, hearty home cooking, Irish dished might be perfect for you!

Soda Bread

There isn’t a family in Ireland that doesn’t have a recipe for some good old fashioned soda bread. Some recipes are more on the sweet side by adding honey or dried fruit while others are of the saltier variety. Either way, all of the recipes involve the same main ingredients; baking soda, buttermilk, and flour. No matter what way you choose to make it, sweet or salty, you’re going to want to eat it the “traditional” way. With lots of butter! Soda bread is a popular Irish food that goes well with pretty much anything, especially with stew!

Irish Stew

Another popular Irish food is Irish stew! There’s nothing better than a nice hot bowl of stew to warm you up in the cold winter months. Irish stew is traditionally made with mutton, onions, and potatoes (of course). Some people add carrots or other vegetables to the stew. These days, most Irish stew is made with lamb instead of mutton because mutton is harder to come by. Either way, Irish stew is a popular Irish food that is simple to make, yet hearty and filling on a cold winter night

Boxty

Made with potatoes, boxty has also been called “potato bread”, “potato dumplings” or “potato pancakes”. It was also touted as “poor house bread” long ago when potatoes were the main ingredient in most Irish dishes. It is made by adding grated potatoes to mashed potatoes. You add this mixture to flour and salt and then boil it before you slice it and then fry it in butter. You can also add it to a pancake like batter and bake it in a pan before slicing it and frying it. Either way, it is a filling side dish that goes great with breakfast items such as bacon or eggs.

Black Pudding

It isn’t a sweet treat like you would expect. No, this popular Irish food is actually made with pork meat, pork fat, blood, and oatmeal. Basically it is a sausage and not a sweet dessert. White pudding is similarly made, just without the blood. Both of these puddings are a staple in Irish breakfast foods. There are even black pudding potato pancakes if you are missing the potatoes in your diet. Most popular Irish food includes very few ingredients but still manages to be hearty, flavorful, and filling. Potatoes are the corner stone to most of the dishes served but the Irish have also come up with other dishes that do not include their famous spuds. If you are looking for a nice filling meal, popular Irish food is the way to go.

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The Ancient Order of Hibernians in America is a Catholic, Irish-American Fraternal Organization founded in New York City in 1836. The Order can trace its roots back to a parent organization, of the same name, which has existed in Ireland for over 400 years. However, while the organizations share a common thread, the North American AOH is a separate and much larger organization. The Board of Erin and the Board of America cooperate on projects and had a joint Board meeting in Dundalk, Ireland in 1995. 

The Order evolved from a society formed in 1565 to protect the priests who risked immediate death to keep the Catholic Faith alive, in occupied Ireland, during the reign of England’s Tudor monarchs. In 1697, when England imposed its dreaded Penal Laws on Ireland, secret societies were formed across Ireland to aid and comfort the clergy and the people by whatever means available. Similarly, the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America was founded on May 4, 1836, at New York City’s St. James Church, to protect the clergy and church property from the likes of the “Know Nothings” and their followers. In the late 1840s, the vast influx of Irish immigrants fleeing The Great Hunger (An Gorta Mor) in Ireland prompted a growth of various social societies in the United States to aid these refugees, the largest of which was, and continues to be, the Ancient Order of Hibernians.

Active across the United States today, the Order seeks to aid, socially and politically, both the newly arrived Irish and those Irish-Americans from generations removed. The many Divisions and club facilities located throughout the U.S. have traditionally have been among the first to welcome Irish immigrants and to preserve Irish Culture. Here, the Irish language, art, dance, music, and sports are fostered and preserved. Newcomers can meet some of “their own” and are introduced to the social atmosphere of the Irish-American community. The AOH has been at the forefront of Irish issues such as: economic incentives (both here and in Ireland); Peace with Justice in a United Ireland; the Human Rights issues addressed in the MacBride Principles Legislation; Genocide Curriculum Legislation; freedom of religion; and Respect for Life.

The Order has provided a continuing bridge with Ireland for those Irish-Americans who are generations removed from their country of origin. Many AOH Divisions host visiting children from the North of Ireland under Project Children or other programs. The Order sponsors many programs associated with promoting our Irish Heritage, such as one year overseas study scholarships at Irish Universities and the Irish Way Program. Irish Studies programs at American universities, and scholarships at universities such as Notre Dame, are also sponsored by the Order.

You are seeking admittance to the finest Irish Catholic Organization in the world – all we ask is for you to live our motto of “Friendship, Unity, and Christian Charity”.