Fr. Gibbons said the apparition took place at a troubled time for Ireland. Land reform efforts had provoked heated controversy and even violence, while scattered famines recalled the fearful times of Ireland’s Great Hunger.
This is the background of the traditional prayer: “Our Lady of Knock, Queen of Ireland, you gave hope to your people in a time of distress and comforted them in sorrow.”
“Our Lady of Knock was, and continues to be an icon of hope, forgiveness and compassion for all,” Fr. Gibbons said, calling the reburial “a wonderful opportunity” to recognize Curry.
“He, like many others at the time, was forced to emigrate in search of work and was unable to travel home again.”
Curry had emigrated to New York in 1897 at the age of 25, then was in London in 1900 before returning to the U.S. in 1911. He worked as railway laborer near Milwaukee, then moved to New York in the 1920s and worked an attendant at the City Hospital on what is now New York’s Roosevelt Island.
He never married.
When his health began to decline, he moved to live with the Little Sisters of the Poor on Long Island.
Not until shortly before the second inquiry began did he tell the sisters that he was one of the witnesses to the apparition at Knock.
Late in life, Curry would recount the stories of the apparition and of serving Mass for Archdeacon Bartholomew Cavanaugh, the parish priest of Knock. Just before the apparition began, the priest had completed a series one hundred Masses for the souls in Purgatory whom the Virgin Mary wished to be released.
Curry died in the care of the Little Sisters of the Poor in Manhattan in 1943, aged 69. He was buried in an unmarked grave at Pine Lawn Cemetery in Long Island. Curry’s cousin, Patrick Hill, passed away in Boston in 1927 at the age of 60.
The modern-day rector of the shrine, Fr. Gibbons, spoke about Curry’s unmarked grave to Cardinal Dolan when the cardinal led a 2015 pilgrimage to Knock.
(Story continues below)
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Initially, he asked the cardinal to help bless the grave when a gravestone was provided. The cardinal then offered to bring Curry’s remains to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. When this proved impossible, the grounds of the historic cathedral was chosen.
Fr. Gibbons said Knock is extremely grateful to the cardinal for his support and encouragement. In an unusual reversal, 130 pilgrims will be flying from Knock to New York City. Their numbers include some of Curry’s relatives.
Tom Beirne, a New York resident who is co-chairing the reburial committee, told CNA the reburial means that Curry “will finally get the recognition that he so greatly deserves at this point.”
He suggested that the reburial and focus on Our Lady of Knock would increase Marian devotion, combined with the centenary of the Marian apparition known as Our Lady of Fatima.
Beirne said Our Lady of Knock has continuing significance to Irish-Americans. He pointed to the St. Patrick’s Day Mass with Cardinal Dolan at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, when the singer Cathy Maguire sang “an amazing rendition” of Dana Rosemary Scallon’s song “Our Lady of Knock”, which went viral on the internet.
Beirne said that St. Patrick's Old Cathedral is “hugely significant” to the Irish community and the Irish-American Catholic fraternity the Ancient Order of Hibernians, which is assisting in the reburial.