For Irish immigrant Pat Troy, “faith is everything.” At age 70, Troy is surrounded by his family and friends and owns Ireland’s Own, a thriving pub in Alexandria, Virginia.
He has also met every U.S. president from John F. Kennedy to Barack Obama.
But life has not always been easy for Troy, who grew up in a poor farming community in a small town in County Offaly, Ireland.
In a Nov. 29 interview with CNA, Troy recalled working hard as a child, both on a farm and for a nearby community of nuns.
The Catholic faith was important to him from a young age, he said, remembering how he would attend Mass with his grandfather every Sunday. He also developed a special devotion to Padre Pio and the Virgin Mary, whom he believes has been instrumental in his life.
“The Blessed Mother was always looking after me,” he said.
At age 16, he was recommended by his parish priest to be trained as a butler at Birr Castle, where he worked for five years, serving prominent members of Irish society and European royalty.
Things happen for a reason, said Troy, who sees Divine Providence in the chance encounter he had with a stranger in Ireland in 1962, who encouraged and helped him immigrate to the United States at age 21.
He also sees the guidance of God at work during the years that he struggled to support his wife and two children in Washington D.C. after he immigrated, working as an insurance salesman and later buying an Irish import store where he sold authentic Irish products and gifts.
Eventually, Troy bought a pub—which he named Ireland’s Own—and which would become a center for the Irish American community in the area.
As its reputation grew, Troy found himself meeting numerous famous actors, athletes and politicians.
These meetings were all overshadowed, however, when Troy and his wife had the opportunity to meet Pope Benedict XVI in Rome in September 2008.
Troy said that “nothing can compare” to the experience of looking into the eyes of the Pope and realizing that you are indeed “close to God.”
Today, Troy loves visiting and sharing his experiences with the people who stop in at his pub. He also sees it as an opportunity to help others.
Over the years, he said, he has had many chances to talk through people’s problems with them. In offering them support and advice, he often encourages people to pray about their difficulties. He believes that God has given him a special ability to speak and connect with people, and that he should use this gift to help others.
All Catholics are called to be “charitable people,” he explained, and we can all do something “in our own little silent way.”
One of the ways in which Troy tries to give back to the community is by hosting Theology on Tap, a program that is sponsored by the diocese of Arlington. He welcomes young adults to his pub multiple times each year to hear speakers on a variety of topics involving faith and contemporary life.
Troy said that he has had a “wonderful” experience hosting Theology on Tap over the years, and that it has become a kind of “family community.”
He recalled a particularly touching experience several years ago, when he asked Theology on Tap participants to pray each week for his new granddaughter, Mairead, who weighed less than two pounds at birth.
Everyone did, and today, Mairead is a healthy 4-year-old girl, whom Troy has even brought into the pub on several occasions.
Troy has returned multiple times to visit Ireland, a country that has undergone significant changes since his youth. He reminisced about the days when the churches in Ireland were nearly full. Now, he noted, they are almost empty.
Troy said that he is sad to see so many young people leaving their faith. But he believes that the Blessed Mother “will intervene” on behalf of Ireland and the country “will come back” to the Catholic Church.
Despite any challenges that the future may hold for him, Troy is confident that God will continue to guide and bless him. “It all comes because of your faith,” he said.