.- As Americans from coast to coast celebrate St. Patrick’s Day today with things like green beverages and parades, a group of Irish-Catholic descendents are searching for remnants of a fabled past. Back in the late 1800’s up until the depression, a group of Irish immigrants, known as The Ancient Order of Hibernians, donated much of their meager earnings from work in railroad building and coal digging to buy stained glass windows for Catholic Churches nationwide.
The windows, depicting St. Patrick and various New Testament scenes, are now in danger of being forever lost to history.
Modern-day Hibernians are scouring some churches hoping to find scattered pieces of a past rich in faith, tradition and sacrifice.
Irish immigrants who had traveled to New York City founded the American Hiberians in 1836.
Hibernian historian Michael Cummings told the AP that, “window donations picked up after the Civil War, a time when newspaper headlines trumpeted the violent exploits of a secret society of Irish miners in Pennsylvania called the Molly Maguires.”
In an attempt to rebuild their tarnished image, the group redoubled their efforts to enlist Catholic chaplains, which, Cummings believes, led to the increased generosity of the window-donation.
Cummings began the effort to find the windows three years ago and has stepped up the search in light of church closings and consolidations, particularly in traditionally Irish neighborhoods.
The Hibernians have so far discovered 229 lost windows including one in Cummings hometown of Albany. Most, he said, are concentrated in the northeast part of the U.S.
Cummings and other Hibernians are excited for the glimpse into the group’s past to continue. Added Cummings, "it's kind of like finding a lost relative."