William’s Faith and Fortitude: The 200th Anniversary of Mattingly Settlement

“His Wife, His Horse…and His Ever Faithful Dog”

William Mattingly, founder of Mattingly Settlement, Ohio

It was 200 years ago that William Mattingly, his wife Sarah (“Sally”), and his faithful dog Schneider left their home in western Maryland and headed out into what was then the wild west: modern day Ohio.

Only thirty years before, the Declaration of Independence had made history. Ten short years before William’s departure, Lewis and Clark had made their famed expedition across the new nation.

William Mattingly was born in 1778, just after the birth of the United States of America. When he settled in Ohio in 1812, he was thirty-four years old.  According to Traditions and Genealogy of the Mattingly Family, 1633-1918 written by Rev. Julius Mattingly in 1918:

…[William] started out into the wild west to make his fortune. The entire make-up of his caravan consisted of himself, his wife, his horse, his trusty rifle and his ever faithful dog, Schneider. He set out on the old trail leading to Pittsburgh, thence westerly to the Ohio River. Here, with the assistance of some friendly Indians he was ferried across at what is now called Bridgeport, Ohio.

William eventually settled in Muskingum County, Ohio, giving his name to what would become known as Mattingly Settlement. He was joined by other family members from Maryland who hoped to find the same success in farming there that William had found.

From England to America: A Legacy of Catholic Faith

The Mattingly family had a strong Catholic identity that had its roots in many generations of faithful ancestors before them. Thomas Mattingly and his family were the first of their clan to arrive in America (around 1664). They had left their home in Mattingley, England in search of freedom to practice their Catholic faith.

Mattingley Church and its churchyard in Mattingley, England – the family’s original surname had the -ley ending (Photo thanks to James Sills)

Although the first generation of settlers found religious freedom elusive in 17th century Maryland, they managed to continue to practice their Catholic faith. This was partly thanks to their move to western Maryland, which was out of reach of the enforcers of anti-Catholic laws.

Ohio: Missionary Territory to Church Community

The faith of their forebears was important to the descendants of those early Mattinglys. They had moved their families across the Atlantic and then across the colonies in search of religious freedom. William Mattingly was no exception. Yet after his move to Ohio, it would be four decades before he and his family had the convenience of living close to a Catholic church. For the first seven of those forty years, the family had no opportunity to receive the sacraments. It was only when missionary priests began to visit the area that their three eldest children were able to be baptized.

By 1820, the Catholic families in the area were able to gather regularly for Mass, although getting there was quite a journey. According to Rev. Julius Mattingly, William “was a devout Catholic, never missing Mass on Sundays, making the trip to Zanesville (10 miles distant) every Sunday”. When in the 1840s the church in Zanesville needed expansion and the project ran low on funds, it was William Mattingly who put up $3,000 to furnish the interior of the church. (This amount is equivalent to at least $70,000 in today’s dollars.)  William also donated $1,500 for a church bell a few years later.

In 1855 the Catholics of Mattingly Settlement in Muskingum township received the go-ahead from the Bishop to begin work on their own local church: St. Mary’s (Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary). The church was placed on William Mattingly’s plot of land (though officially donated by John Mattingly, who had purchased it the same day from William).

According to The History of the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary 1856-2006, One Hundred Fifty Years by Benjamin Factor and Patrick Smeltzer:

When not occupied on their farms, members of the congregation worked vigorously to build their church. Clay was removed from the field with which bricks were made. These bricks were fired just north of the church and the lime for the cement was made in the adjoining field.

When the exterior of their new church was finished in April 1857, the parishioners of St. Mary’s laid to rest their first member in the cemetery within its grounds. It was only fitting that this man was William Mattingly. He died at age 78, having lived to see the Catholic church of Mattingly Settlement almost to its completion.

Mattingly Settlement’s St. Mary’s Church and Cemetery are located in present-day Nashport, Ohio

St. Mary’s would serve William and Sally’s descendants and numerous other families who followed their lead, settling in Muskingum township and practicing the Catholic faith that so many generations of Mattinglys have so deeply treasured.

~

 

Congratulations to the Mattingly family descendants, who will celebrate the 200th anniversary of William’s settlement in Ohio at the 2012 Mattingly Family Reunion at St. Mary’s Church this weekend.

Mattingly Reunion at St. Mary’s Church, 1940

For more information about the history of Mattingly Settlement, St. Mary’s Church, or Mattingly family history, you might be interested in the following resources*:

    • Traditions and Genealogy of the Mattingly Family, 1633-1918 by Rev. Julius Mattingly (1918)
    • The Descendants of Henry Mattingly by Mgsr. Herman Mattingly (1969)
    • The Mattingly Family in Early America by Mgsr. Herman Mattingly (1975)
    • Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary 1856-1981, One Hundred Twenty-Five Years by Rev. H.E. Mattingly (1981)
    • The History of the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary 1856-2006, One Hundred Fifty Years by Benjamin E. Factor and Patrick V. Smeltzer (2006)
    • Mattingly Settlement website – which aims “to preserve the historical, cultural and religious heritage of Mattingly Settlement”

*Several of the books listed above will soon be available on this Mattingly Settlement webpage free of cost in PDF form.

Ohio has a strong history of Catholic faith tradition. In fact, just this summer one of its churches (c. 1823) was elevated by the Vatican to the level of Minor Basilica, one of just seventy-four in the United States. For more information about the newly renamed Basilica of St. John the Baptist in Canton, Ohio visit this article.

New Missionaries: A Reflection on Native American Heritage in the Catholic Church (Part II)

Building on the Past

In New Missionaries: A Reflection on Native American Heritage in the Catholic Church (Part I) we explored the need to preserve Native histories and culture. As citizens of a nation that has, in the past, set up programs and laws such as the Indian Boarding Schools that denied Native Americans the right to express their cultural traditions and language, we have the daunting task of acting against such violent forms of racism in our United States. Once we have honored and treasured the rich past and culture of our Native American brothers and sisters, we must strive to incorporate them into our Catholic family.

Enriching the Present

A statue of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha outside her shrine in Fonda, N.Y. run by the Conventual Franciscan Friars. This week attendees of the Tekakwitha Conference will make a pilgrimage to Fonda and Auriesville, homeland of Kateri Tekakwitha. (Photo by Catholic News Service’s Nancy Phelan Wiechec)

In 1939, the Tekakwitha Conference was established. This Catholic organization was developed to give voice to our Indigenous Catholics. The Tekakwitha Conference offers support to those in ministry to Native Americans, educates others on Native American issues and culture, and even holds an annual conference where Native spiritual understandings are free to be expressed in the Catholic Church. The Tekakwitha Conference is a prime example of Catholics inviting our Native American brothers and sisters to partake at the table of our Universal Church. In the past and even now, the Catholic Church has been criticized, and at times rightly so, for demanding conformity. This would definitely be a fair criticism of the 17th Century friars of New Mexico; rather than welcoming the diversity and value that the Pueblo spiritual tradition had to offer, the Spaniards imposed brutal conformity.

At one of our friaries in New Mexico, the friars incorporated  the customs of the Native community which they serve into the architecture of their chapel. The chapel was designed in the fashion of the prayer space traditionally constructed by the Natives of that region. The Natives would build a sacred room under the ground and the worshipers would gather in a circle. The chapel has a circular skylight to simulate the opening in the ground where worshipers would enter and seating that is placed in a circle around the altar. This is a wonderful example of how the friars incorporated the richness of the Native culture into their liturgical life. Instead of ignoring the Nativesʼ spiritual tradition, the friars enriched the present by valuing and utilizing the dynamic and diverse culture that the Native Americans have to offer.

For all of us researching our genealogies, once we come to understand the culture and history of our ancestors, we must make it come alive again by incorporated our ancestral culture into our prayer, liturgy, and even theology.

Just as old traditions from England, Ireland, France, Italy, Poland, Germany, etc. are incorporated into the life of the Church, Native American culture has an equal right to be welcomed into the spiritual life of the Church. For all of us researching our genealogies, once we come to understand the culture and history of our ancestors, we must make it come alive again by incorporated our ancestral culture into our prayer, liturgy, and even theology. While this is easily done for western cultures, somehow, when Native American traditions are welcomed into the Church there seems to always be an opponent who calls the diversifying of worship and spirituality “liturgical abuse” or “pagan”. Brothers and sisters, we are not a church of conformity, but of unified diversity.

It is our responsibility as the new Catholic missionaries to celebrate, understand, and incorporate Native American custom and tradition into the Body of Christ.

Working Towards the Future in Hope

Lastly, after preserving our history and enriching the Church with our ancestral traditions and understandings, we are called to lay the groundwork for future generations in the Church. When doing genealogical research, I am always reminded of my own mortality. For genealogical enthusiasts, we should ask ourselves how we will shape the world for our future generations who may be doing genealogical research on us one day. Will I be remembered for great suffering one day just as I remembered my Cherokee ancestors for the great suffering they endured? Will I be remembered by future generations with disappointment just as I remember my Franciscan predecessors of the 17th Century with disappointment? Questions like these call me to do my best to build up the Kingdom of God for those who will follow after me.

Letʼs say you are doing genealogical research and you discover that you have Irish ancestors who immigrated to America in the 20th Century. You gain some great family information and you discover the harsh prejudice that your Irish ancestors and many Irish immigrants faced at that time in history. Instead of just taking this as a historical fact to lament, the Catholic genealogical enthusiast has an obligation to respond. An appropriate response would be to work towards fighting the oppressive structures in place today that deny immigrants the human dignity that they deserve.

Conventual Franciscan Friars continue their service to the Native American poor. (Photo courtesy of Province of Our Lady of Consolation.)

For me, the response is a daunting one. More than one quarter of the American Indigenous population lives in poverty. The Native American reservation population today is one that is immersed in realities of poverty, alcoholism, lack of education, shortened average life spans, and the list continues. It can be easily argued that the Native American population is the most disenfranchised and marginalized population in our nation. Native Americans remain on the margins of society where they were placed when the European colonizers first arrived in the New World. What could I possibly do to care for this family of people to whom my ancestors belonged? One way is through my Franciscan Fraternity. As Iʼve mentioned, the friars still minister within Native American communities, and it is my hope to have the honor to serve my Native American brothers and sisters.

Additionally, as Catholics, we all have a responsibility to care for the temporal needs of our Native American brothers and sisters. Holy Mother Church has always upheld the principle of preferential option for the poor. We are compelled by the Gospels to care for the least among us, and I believe that it is clear to see that one of the least among us it the Native American population. Our Catholic Church should be dedicated to ensuring the rights and dignity of those Native American communities that are simply struggling to survive in a world where they have always been kicked to the curb.

Just as the Gospel Message leads us to care for those around us, genealogy research should lead us to care for the Children of God.

Just as the Gospel Message leads us to care for those around us, genealogy research should lead us to care for the Children of God. Genealogy is not simply a wonderful and insightful hobby, but like all things we do, it should ultimately lead us to better answer the Gospelʼs call to love and serve. With genealogy we come to appreciate the diversity, immensity, and beauty of all Godʼs Children. We, as genealogical enthusiasts should take time to appreciate this fact and reflect on how we can build up a more sanctified Church and a more just world for the generations that will one day be researching us.

Go Forth And Preach the Gospel at All Times!

Well, my brother and sister missionaries, maybe this was the first time that you have ever thought about what role Native American heritage should play in our Church…maybe not. Just as in the days of exploration the Catholic Church went about telling the Native Americans of the Good News of Jesus Christ, we too must continue the responsibility to minister to our brother and sister Native Americans. While the Church has not always done the best in preaching the Gospel, today we have a new opportunity. We have the opportunity to use our gifts and love of genealogy to answer Godʼs call to preserve the past, enrich the present, and work toward the future in hope.

We must be a missionary people to our Indigenous Catholics by educating ourselves on Native history and culture, welcoming Native spirituality at the table of the Universal Church, and by caring for Native American communities who act as Christ among us.

Go, therefore, and be the Gospel for all nations and peoples!

New Missionaries: A Reflection on Native American Heritage in the Catholic Church (Part I)

The Catholic Gene is pleased to celebrate the feast day of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha today, July 14, with this article about Native American Catholic roots by our new contributing author Trent Hale. 

Native Connections

I will always remember the horrifying mountain of papers that stood before me when I first naively took on the task of tracking down my familyʼs Native American ancestry. I had amassed a collection of old family documents, pictures, family trees, and random scribbles and notes that Iʼm sure my older relatives thought would be of use to me (they were not).

A simple glance at my maternal grandmotherʼs dark skin, hair, and eyes and her prominently high cheek bones would tip off even the dullest of observers of her Native ancestry. I had always been told by my grandmother and her sisters of our familyʼs Cherokee and Choctaw ancestors, but I wanted some more proof.

A simple glance at my maternal grandmotherʼs dark skin, hair, and eyes and her prominently high cheek bones would tip off even the dullest of observers of her Native ancestry. I had always been told by my grandmother and her sisters of our familyʼs Cherokee and Choctaw ancestors, but I wanted some more proof. So, there I sat, with a daunting pile of family documents and the wonders of the world-wide-web at my disposal, ready to find that empirical evidence I needed to prove our Native American ancestry. For generations far removed from the days of living on reservation property, the task of tracking down documentation of oneʼs aboriginal history can prove to be a most challenging task. I donʼt wish to bore you with all the specifics of my research, but I should say that I did find that evidence I was looking for. I matched several of my close ancestors to the governmental rolls and censuses taken of the “civilized tribes” (i.e. The Dawes Roll, the Old Settlers Roll, 1896 Census Applications).

The Native peoples were introduced to the Catholic Church by Franciscan Friars such as Blessed Juniperro Serra, apostle to California. (Photo by Ruben Pulido)

Furthermore, as a postulant of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual (Conventual Franciscan Friars), I have another connection to my Native roots. Upon the Spanish colonizersʼ movement into what today is the South West United States, the Native peoples were introduced to the Catholic Church. The representatives of our Mother Church were the Little Brothers of Saint Francis…the Franciscan Friars. The friars journeyed with the wealth-seeking conquistadors of the Spanish Empire throughout present-day New Mexico in the hopes of bringing the Native peoples into the fold of the Christian Church. Of course this was not necessarily a time of peace and harmony. In an era in which there was a kind of “militant spirituality” in the Church, the friars came to the Pueblo people with the intentions of replacing their ancient spiritual beliefs and practices with that of the Catholic tradition.

Needless to say, the Pueblos had no intention of fully abandoning their ancient traditions, and the friars had no intention of allowing Catholicism to simply be an adjunct to so-called “pagan” practices. What this led to was an outbreak of brutality on the part of the Spaniards. Soldiers and friars alike violently imposed the Catholic faith on the Pueblo Nation. Tribal ceremonies were banned and “heathen practices” were severely punished. In 1675, the tribes of the Pueblo around present-day Santa Fe, NM region rose up in revolt. Approximately 2,000 natives took arms against the colonizers and slaughtered nearly half of the Catholic clergy in the region. This revolt prompted the Spaniards to flee south.

The Ysleta Mission in El Paso, TX is still run by the Conventual Friars who minister to the residents of the nearby Ysleta reservation. (Photograph by Donnie Raney of Raney Photography, El Paso. Used with permission.)

Today, the friars continue their missionary work amidst the Natives of New Mexico. While our relationship with the Pueblos has been rocky, a shift in missionary practice allowed for an opening of trust and dialogue. The revolt of 1675 was a sign that the original missionary practices would not suffice in the New World. The friars learned to incorporate Pueblo spirituality and culture into our Universal Church. This allowed for the Catholic Church as a whole to be enriched by the many gifts and insights that the Native Americans continue to provide.

So What?!

The reason I share this is because many times, after talking about my own research into my Native American ancestry, I am asked the question: “So what?” Maybe if youʼre reading this and you yourself are a lover of genealogy you have run into a similar question…or maybe itʼs just me. Although it may be simple in nature, sometimes “so what” has great depth to it. So what am I supposed to do with this connection I have made with the Native peoples of days past? Iʼve discovered my Cherokee and Choctaw ancestry and made the historical connection between the Pueblo people and the Franciscan Family of which I belong…so what? For me, discovering my genealogy is a way to preserve the past, enrich the present, and work towards the future in hope. Genealogy is not just a fun hobby or interesting research, but it is a way for us to accentuate that universality of our Catholic faith. Our faith is one that preserves the past, enriches the present, and works towards the future in hope. I therefore, would like to present these three aspects in context with my own ancestry and experience of Native Americans.

The work of the Franciscan friars has a long history within the Catholic Church. (Pictured here: Franciscan St. Francis Solano, born in the 16th century. This painting is located at Museo Nacional de Peru, Lima.)

Along with presenting these three areas of past, present, and future in the context of the Native American heritage, I offer an invitation: Those of us in the Church, of Native ancestry or otherwise, are called to be new missionaries to the Native peoples. We are invited to, unlike the friars of the 17th Century, bring the Native American tradition, heritage, and people to the “family table” of the Catholic Church. We do this by understanding our nationʼs Native American history (and for those of us who have Native American ancestry…knowing our tribal heritage), incorporating Native American spirituality and cultural understandings into the life of the Church, and by working toward a full recognition of the human dignity and rights of the Native people in our nation and in our Church.

Preserving the Past

Knowing that my own ancestors were forced to walk from the Appalachian Mountain Range to Oklahoma amidst the bitter cold, disease, and violence compels me to be responsible for preserving the true history of our tribe.

Today it seems as though the first thing that comes to oneʼs mind when thinking about Native Americans is casinos. It is a sad reality in this nation that authentic Native history, culture, and tradition has been, in so many cases, sold out for tourism. The slot machines, resorts, and buffets ease the Americanʼs conscience. Very rarely do Americans, while putting quarters into the slot machine, consider that the “democracy” to which they proudly belong is still burdened with the guilt of mass genocide that it carried out on the Native American peoples.

In considering my own Cherokee heritage, I find it truly regrettable that tourism has cheapened our tribal legacy. It is not uncommon to see, around Cherokee reservations, images of teepees and chieftains with large headdresses; this is regrettable because the Cherokee people did not live in teepees nor did their leaders wear long feathered headdresses. When we put a price tag on a culture or heritage, we devalue the human person that makes up said culture.

Of course, this act of putting a price on a people would not be uncommon to the American government. Most Americans are familiar with the horror that is the Trail of Tears. In this moment in history, the gold-hungry American government took the ancient land of our Cherokee tribe (which, in Native culture, is also considered to be a living part of the people) out from under our ancestorsʼ feet. Knowing that my own ancestors were forced to walk from the Appalachian Mountain Range to Oklahoma amidst the bitter cold, disease, and violence compels me to be responsible for preserving the true history of our tribe. I am compelled to never let my fellow Americans forget how we attempted to eradicate an entire race of people. I, and all Americans are also responsible to ensure that we donʼt continue the American legacy of genocide by allowing authentic Native culture to slip into the darkness of the past.

National Park Service map of the various routes of the Native peoples during the Trail of Tears.

When we take the time to actually learn about the true cultural history of a people, we start to see them as such–people. Very few realize that before the American democracy even came into being, the Cherokee people had an established democratic legislative body to govern the tribe. Very few also realize that we were able to develop one of the most efficient written syllabaries in history, or that we had a complex and rich spiritual understanding of the world around us. If each American, no matter the ethnic background, took time and effort to learn about the Native American heritage, America as a whole would realize that there is something valuable in the Native American people. If we preserve the true Native American identity (not the one portrayed by casinos or in pop culture), we preserve the humanity of an entire ethnicity. Taking care to preserve Native American history says to our Native American brothers and sisters that we find value in them and that we are dedicated to stop abuse of the Native American history to earn a quick buck.

The Cherokee people developed one of the most efficient written syllabaries in history. (Photo credit: Marek Nowocień)

Furthermore, as Catholics, for us to naively believe that the spiritual traditions of the Native American people have no value, would be a grave mistake. In order for us to be the Catholic missionaries of this new millennium we must also affirm and preserve the spiritual traditions and beliefs of the pre-colonial Native Americans. This too requires us to educate ourselves on what those beliefs and practices entail. With an understanding of authentic Native American culture, history, customs, and beliefs in our repertoire, we will have the foundation from which to accomplish the task of enriching the present and working towards the future in hope.

It is fitting that we take time to reflect on and education ourselves about the histories of a lost people. Preserving the past is the first and most important step to the task of welcoming our Native American brothers and sisters to the “Catholic table”.

Continue reading this article at New Missionaries: A Reflection on Native American Heritage in the Catholic Church (Part II).

A Catholic History Lesson on America’s Independence Day

Here’s a little Independence Day quiz for 4th of July readers of The Catholic Gene. Try your hand (without reading the answer below) at guessing the century and location where this statute was the law of the land:

…all and every Jesuit, seminary priest, missionary or other spiritual or ecclesiastical person made or ordained by any authority, power or jurisdiction, derived, challenged or pretended, from the pope or see of Rome…shall be deemed and accounted an incendiary and disturber of the publick peace and safety, and an enemy to the true Christian religion, and shall be ajudged to suffer perpetual imprisonment, and if any person, being so sentenced and actually imprisoned, shall break prison and make his escape, and be afterwards re-taken, he shall be punished with death.

The words above, believe it or not, are from a 1647 statute governing a portion of our fair land (the future United States of America) and can be found in The Book of the General Lauues and Libertys concerning the Inhabitants of Massachusetts (1648).

Other similar laws were enacted throughout the colonies.  However, according to American Catholics: A History of the Roman Catholic Community in the United States by John Hennesey, S.J., such a small number of Catholics actually set foot in Massachusetts and other colonies hostile to the faith during this period, that very few met with this type of punishment (though Quakers often did). These types of laws, however, writes Hennesey, ensured that “Catholic settlement was effectively prevented and foundations laid for the anti-Catholicism which observers have noted as endemic to the American scene”.

“The Founding of the Colony of Maryland” by Tompkins Harrison Matteson, painted in 1853 (Maryland State Art Collection)

A relatively small number of Catholics did successfully settle in what would later become the eastern United States, most notably in Maryland, which was established by the efforts of the Catholic Calvert family (by the 1st and 2nd Lords Baltimore) under King Charles I in 1633. Among instructions to the colonists (of which Protestants were the majority), the governor and commissioners were required to:

…cause all Acts of Romane Catholoques to be done as privately as may be, and…instruct all Romane Catholoques to be silent upon all occasions of discourse concerning matters of Religion; and…treat the Protestants with as much mildness and favor as Justice will permit.*

Religious liberty has come a long way in the United States of America. Though established and governed by Catholics initially, Maryland’s history, like that of the rest of what would become the United States of America, would be fraught with growing pains regarding the establishment of religious freedom. By 1708, there were 3,000 Catholics in Maryland – a small one-tenth of the population – and they had seen major setbacks. Anglicanism had been established in the colony in 1702, requiring taxes and compulsory attendance, while Catholics could not vote or hold public office. Ten years later their right to worship privately was reinstated, but it would be a long road to religious liberty for the Catholics of Maryland and the American colonies.

The flags of the United States and the Vatican flying side by side

Maryland, however, had planted a seed for the future. In the words of Robert Baird, a 19th-century historian who was often critical of the Catholic Church:

Think what we may of their creed, and very different as was this policy from what Romanism elsewhere might have led us to expect, we can not refuse to Lord Baltimore’s colony the praise of having established the first government in modern times in which entire toleration was granted to all denominations of Christians.

As we Americans (many of us American Catholics) celebrate the independence of our country, we have a lot to be thankful for. A look back at the history of our nation cannot help but give us a better appreciation for the freedoms that we may take for granted each year as we put out our American flags and deck out our homes in red, white and blue for the 4th of July.

*Documents of American History, Henry Steele Commager and Milton Cantor, eds. 10th edition, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall, 1988.

The Catholic Gene celebrates the “Legacy of Religious Freedom”

“Answer to the Lament of the Irish Emigrant”

Many of our immigrant ancestors set off on arduous, expensive and potentially life-threatening journeys to the United States for various reasons, very few of them trivial. They left their homelands in search of opportunities for work, chances to own land, and other ways to better their lives.

Like the first pilgrims that set foot in what would become New England, many immigrants over the centuries also came to America in search of religious freedom, Catholics included.

Today is the first day of the Fortnight for Freedom, a two-week period designated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as a national campaign of teaching and witness for religious liberty.  It was inspired by recent challenges to this freedom in the United States, as Pope Benedict XVI describes: efforts to “deny the right of conscientious objection on the part of Catholic individuals and institutions with regard to cooperation in intrinsically evil practices” and the “tendency to reduce religious freedom to mere freedom of worship without guarantees of respect for freedom of conscience”. (Ad limina address to Bishops of the United States, January 19, 2012)

The Bishops have challenged Catholics to focus their thoughts and prayers during this two week period on the importance of the right to a living, active faith unhindered by the restrictions of government.

We need, therefore, to speak frankly with each other when our freedoms are threatened. Now is such a time. As Catholic bishops and American citizens, we address an urgent summons to our fellow Catholics and fellow Americans to be on guard, for religious liberty is under attack, both at home and abroad. – United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty, April 14, 2012

This topic is vitally important to people of all faiths, not just Catholics.  Here at The Catholic Gene – where we gather to share the stories of our Catholic family history – we would like to hear your stories. What has religious freedom meant to your family? Did your ancestors flee a country that would not allow them to worship freely (like many 20th century Mexican immigrants)? Did they meet with persecution because of their faith? Or did they play a role in preserving and strengthening their community of faith during times in history when religious freedom faced no obstacles?

Prayers written in the 17th century by Jesuit priest Andrew White, first Catholic missionary to the Maryland colony

As with many of our American values, the commitment to religious freedom has seen its ups and downs.  Do you have Catholic ancestors who first settled the Maryland colony later to be impacted by new laws against Catholic education and the destruction of Catholic schools? Do you have family members who told stories about anti-Catholic sentiment against political candidates? Or did your ancestors worship in other faiths and face religious persecution in other countries? Share your stories with us in the comments section here at The Catholic Gene.

The challenge facing you, dear friends, is to increase people’s awareness of the importance for society of religious freedom; to defend that freedom against those who would take religion out of the public domain and establish secularism as America’s official faith.  And it is vitally necessary for the very survival of the American experience, to transmit to the next generation the precious legacy of religious freedom and the convictions which sustain it. – Blessed John Paul II, Baltimore, Basilica of the Assumption, 1995

Help us take time to remember the stories of some of those who risked their lives and their livelihoods for the ability to worship and practice their faith freely, and the stories of those that lived inspiring lives of faith during the springtimes of religious freedom. We hope that readers will be inspired to look at the history of our religious freedom in the United States, and join in prayer for the continuation of this vital liberty that is so important to us as Americans.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. – First Amendment of the United States Bill of Rights

For more information about the history of religious freedom in the United States, you might be interested in reading Liz O’Connor’s article Approaches to Religious Freedom Have Developed Over Time on the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website.

Mexico’s Forgotten Pain: The Persecution of Catholics and the Cristero War

The miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe on display in Mexico City’s Basilica de Guadalupe

Mexico is a nation with a very strong Catholic identity, yet for over 70 years during the 20th century the Catholic Church was actually outlawed: not allowed to own property, run schools, convents or monasteries, have more than a certain number of priests (and no foreign priests), nor defend itself publicly or in the courts. It was hardly allowed to exist. According to historian Jim Tuck, “This was not separation of church and state: it was complete subordination of church to state”.

Following 1940, enforcement of these restrictions gradually lessened, but it was not until 1992 that the Church was restored as a legal entity in Mexico. During the period of the strictest enforcement of these draconian laws beginning with the rule of President Calles in the late 1920s, Mexicans were often imprisoned for wearing religious items, saying “Adios” in public (which literally means “with God”), or even questioning the laws. Public worship was a crime punishable by hanging or firing squad. (In fact, this week – May 21 – was the feast day of 25 Mexican saints and martyrs who remained true to their faith during these turbulent years and were canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2000. Another 13 martyrs were canonized by Pope Benedict XVI in 2005, including young José Luis Sánchez del Río. Perhaps the most well-known modern Mexican martyr, however, is Blessed Fr. Miguel Pro, beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1988.)

The relics of the seven Mexican Knights of Columbus member priests martyred during the Cristero War were on display at Sacred Heart Co-Cathedral in Houston in April. You can see them at San Antonio’s San Fernando Cathedral on June 2-3, 2012. (Click the photo for more info) Portrait of the priests by artist Martha Orozco. Photo by the Knights of Columbus.

For a nation that was 95% Catholic, this was a crisis of unimaginable proportions. Yet modern Mexico – and the world – has largely forgotten the suffering that took place in the years 1926-1929. Known as the Cristero War or Cristero Rebellion (La Cristiada in Spanish), this period was, according to historian Donald Mabry, “a virulent anticlericalism [attack on the Church] that has seldom been surpassed in any other country”. With such a severe restriction of their liberties, the Mexican people were forced to react. After a decree that required the registration of priests and the confiscation of church property, the Catholic bishops of Mexico made the decision to close the churches and go underground. It was during this time that armed rebellion first broke out against the government. “Mexico rose in arms to shouts of ‘Viva Cristo Rey!'” writes historian Jürgen Buchenau. “Thus began the Cristero Rebellion, which eventually grew to 50,000 soldiers, or a force almost as large as the federal army.”

Mexicans taking up arms to defend their rights during the Cristero Rebellion. Notice the flag with the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico’s beloved patroness.

The story of the Cristero soldiers and their fight for liberty is told dramatically in a new movie to be released in theaters in the U.S. on June 1st. For Greater Glory tells the largely forgotten tale of this painful time in recent Mexican history. The movie is the first major motion picture for director Pablo José Barroso, a businessman turned director of faith-based films. According to Barroso, “This is not only another Hollywood movie; it’s a movie of standing up for what you believe; it’s a… spiritual journey.” The film seeks to recreate interest in this terrible period in Mexican history, which is surprisingly little known even in Mexico (where the film debuted in April as Cristiada). Barroso hopes that through this movie he will be able to accurately depict the violence that Mexican Catholics suffered (the movie is rated R for war violence and disturbing images).

This new movie tells the story of Mexico’s Cristero period through the eyes of its main character, an unlikely hero who takes up the fight for religious freedom.

The impact of the Cristero War was felt not only throughout Mexico, but also in the United States, as waves of Mexican immigrants sought to escape the violence of their homeland. The exodus from Mexico’s west-central region was particularly great. Historian Julia Young writes in the Catholic Historical Review, “Of all the causes for the marked rise in emigration out of Mexico’s west-central states during the 1920s, it was the devastation wrought by the Cristero War that reinforced and solidified these trends during the latter part of the decade.” In the year 1928, for example, the Mexican government targeted this region with a campaign aimed to evacuate residents, then pillage and bomb their towns. Eyewitness Luis Gonzalez y Gonzalez describes the aftermath of such an attack against the town of San Jose de Gracia in Michoacan: “a place of roofless walls and rubble, ashes, and charcoal, with green grass sprouting in the street and on garden walls, and soot everywhere. The only sound was the howling of starving cats.”  After this type of devastation, many smaller villages never recovered and remain ghost towns today.

Bishop Emanuel Palomar Azpeitin of Tepic, Mexico returning to his homeland in 1929 with 27 of his fellow priests. They, along with many other priests, had been deported in 1926 by the Mexican government and lived for three years in Los Angeles, California.

With access to Mexico’s new railway infrastructure, Mexican citizens left their war-torn country in droves. They not only settled in the previously traditional migrant areas of southern California, Texas and the rest of the southwest, but also began to make their way to other parts of the U.S. that had previously had few Mexican immigrants: the midwest, for example.

Map of Mexican Ethnic Distribution in the United States created by the Pacific Coast Immigration Museum. (Click on photo for their webpage)

If you have Catholic ancestors who lived in or emigrated from Mexico during the Cristero period and would like to learn more, it is difficult to find much information on the internet. However, these links may help to give you a basic understanding of this largely unknown period in Mexican history, help you learn more about its impact on your family, and get you started tracing your Mexican family tree.

About the Cristero War – Online Reading

About the Cristero War – Books

About the movie, “For Greater Glory”

In search of your Mexican family history

~

A very special thank-you to two high school students whose research into 1920s Mexico was a big help to me in preparing this article. Their historical exhibit received honors within this year’s National History Day competition.

Assumption Sisters in the 1940 U.S. Census

Here are the names of the Felician Sisters that were assigned to the parish of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Detroit, Michigan at the time of the 1940 U.S. Census.

Mary Dombrowska (Head), age 42, born in Ohio.
Anthonina Parz, age 73, born in Poland.
Petronella Kosmecko, age 55, born in Poland.
Pauline Cichs, age 53, born in Michigan.
Frances Strugarek, age 53, born in Poland.
Anastasia Gatza, age 48, born in Michigan.
Anna Nowak, age 45, born in Ohio.
Veronica Zawodna, age 48, born in Ohio.
Sophie Grabowska, age 46, born in Michigan.
Mary Dembowska, age 43, born in Ohio.
Helen Szczepanska, age 42, born in Michigan.
Anna Bodalska, age 29, born in Pennsylvania.
Bernice Konwinska, age 33, born in Michigan.
Mary Gersztyn, age 28, born in New Jersey.
Regina Blaszczak, age 28, born in Pennsylvania.
Genevieve Konopka, age 24, born in Michigan.
Loretta Korkus, age 25, born in Michigan.
Helen Polakowski, age 22, Pennsylvania.
Hedwig Witalec, age 24, born in Michigan.
Frances Markowska, age 21, born in Michigan.
Loraine Sitkiewicz, age 52, born in Poland.

I want their names to get out there, appearing in search engines across the Internet. It’s been my experience that nuns were often the forgot lot among those who chose a religious life. When I look back on the 25th and 50th Jubilee books for Assumption parish (published in 1937 and 1962 respectively), I find that the priests had full page portrait photos with their names as captions (not just the current priests but the previous as well) but the nuns had no photos or names at all in the 25th Jubilee book and only photos with the children in their classrooms in the 50th Jubilee book. Their names were not included. It’s almost as if they took vows of not only poverty and chastity but of invisibility as well. I find that very sad as they worked every bit as hard as the priests. Yet little mention of them was made in commemorative publications.

Assumption Sisters in the 1940 U.S. Census

I wish these circumstances were only true for Assumption parish, but sadly that’s not the case. I have 14 parish jubilee books and the lack of photos/names of the good sisters from those parishes is all too common. They just never seem to have gotten the billing that the priests, the choir, the Rosary Society members, those making their first Holy Communion, the Holy Name Society, the Altar Boys, etc. got. So I’m glad to see their names in the 1940 U.S. Census and I’m happy to extract those names here for their family members to find.

St. Wojciech, First Patron Saint of Poland

By Rev. Mark A. Borkowski

Today, Monday, April 23rd, is the feast of St. Wojciech/Adalbert, who is revered as one of Poland’s oldest saints and in fact one of the great patron saints of the Polish nation. He is a saint also of great importance to us, Polish-Americans of the Archdiocese of Detroit, because the very first Polish parish in the city of Detroit was placed from its very beginning under the protections and patronage of St. Wojciech. Wojciech was born of a noble family in Bohemia in 956, ten ears before Poland became a Christian nation with the baptism of King Mieszko the first bishop of Magdeburg. It should also be noted that Adalbert and Wojciech are two different names, not the Latin and Polish equivalents of the same name! The name Wojciech in Slavonic means “Help of the army.” The English name of Detroit’s first Polish parish “Albertus” was the name mistakenly given to the church at the time of its dedication. Albertus is the Latin form of Abert. This mistake was never corrected in the 117 year history of the parish, which closed in 1989.

As a child, Wojciech was consecrated to the Blessed Virgin by his parents who feared losing him to sickness. They promised the Virgin that Wojciech would live under her patronage with the clergy. Wojciech received an excellent education at the cathedral school of Magdeburg. In 982 he was ordained a subdeacon by the bishop of Prague. Though only 27 years of age, he was elected bishop  of Prague in 983, after the sudden death of the previous bishop. Wojciech entered the city of Prague barefoot as a symbol of his humility. He was received with enthusiasm by Boleslaus II, prince of Bohemia, and all the people of that city. He proceeded to reorganize the diocese but was saddened to learn of the religious state of his flock. Most were Christian in name only. He withdrew to Rome in 990 but returned to Prague in 994 at the insistence of Pope John XV. Again he encountered difficulties and a refusal to accept the true gospel in Prague, which caused him to withdraw from Prague to Rome. Once again the Pope, Gregory V at this time, ordered him back to Prague.

The people of Prague, however, refused to admit Wojciech to the diocese and so he turned his attention to the conversion of Poland (Pomerania) to Christianity as a missionary. He made converts at Gdansk but later met with scorn as he and his companions were accused of being spies.

On April 23rd, 997, he and his companions were martyred near Krolewiec by being beaten to death with oars. After severing his head and fixing it on a pole which was carried throughout the village, his body was thrown into the Nogat River, a tributary of the Wistula, and washed up on the Polish coast. The body was held for ransom by heathens who received a small fortune, the weight of the body in gold, from Boleslaus, Duke of Poland, for its return. Later in 998 his body was enshrined in Gniezno; some of his relics, however, were returned by force to Prague in 1039. Adalbert was canonized a saint in the year 1000.

When St. Albertus parish was organized by the St. Stanislaus Kostka Society (a group of Polish immigrants attending the nearby German St. Joseph Church) they chose the Bohemian born St. Adalbert/Wojciech as their patron. The date of the meeting of organization of the new parish was April 23rd, 1870, the feast of St. Wojciech. He was a fitting choice for patron as many of the early parishioners of the Church had come from that area of Poland known as Pomerania and Poznania where St. Wojciech had ministered. They were known as Kaszubs and spoke a dialect of Polish heavily influenced by the German language.

Wojciech was the first great adopted patron of the Christian Polish nation. He had been venerated for over eight centuries as Protector of the Poles when he was selected to be the patron of Detroit’s first Polish parish which was primarily composed of Kaszubs.

When the first St. Albertus Church was dedicated on Sunday, July14th, 1872, the name of the patron was inadequately translated from the Latin Adalbertus to the English Albertus, thus forever identifying Detroit’s first Polish parish by the misnomer Albertus. Such is life! For better or worse, the Mother Church of the Detroit Polonia is known, at least in English, as St. Albertus.

[Many thanks to Rev. Mark A. Borkowski, Associate Pastor, Ss Peter & Paul Catholic Church, Detroit, Michigan, who was kind enough to allow me to share his article with you.]

Rev. Mark Borkowski celebrating Mass on the feast day of St Wojciech

I have several family ties to St Wojciech and his feast day.

  • I am Polish and he was the first patron saint of Poland.
  • My great grandparents, Szymon and Ludwika Lipa were members of St. Albertus parish in Detroit when they first immigrated to the U.S. Some of my grandaunts and uncles were baptized and buried from that parish as well.
  • Although I was never a member of that parish myself, I created a website for the parish and served as webmaster for several years.
  • I have numerous Granduncles and a couple grandfathers named for St Wojciech.
  • My mother, who always held her Polish heritage near and dear to her heart, died on this day in 2007.

I had intended to write about St. Wojciech in honor of his feast day today but when I read the very nice article Fr. Borkowski had written I knew I could do no better.

Holy Thursday Traditions

I love traditions.  While I enjoy surprises, spontaneity, and serendipity, there is something comforting about doing the same thing at the same time year after year.  My family wasn’t big on traditions though, as much as I loved them.  That might be partly why I love my Catholic faith – the rituals and customs offer a sense of peace, comfort, and belonging – comfort food for my soul.

Daily routine is always labeled as boring, but something that is done less frequently, like once a year, becomes special.  It becomes tradition!  Every year, I know what I will be doing on Holy Thursday evening.  I don’t necessarily know where I will be, but I am certain of who I will be with and what we will be doing.  Because it’s a 30-year-old tradition!

This week is what is known in the Christian world as “Holy Week” – a remembrance of the final week of Jesus’ life.  While all of the events of the week are important, especially the commemoration of Jesus’ death on Good Friday, the traditions of Holy Thursday have always held a special place in my heart.  The Mass that is held on the evening of Holy Thursday is different from other Masses held throughout the year.  While every Mass is a remembrance of the Last Supper, on Holy Thursday we remember the institution of both the Eucharist and the priesthood in a very special way. We sing the beautiful Pange Lingua and Tantum Ergo as the Eurcharist is processed around the church. The Mass does not end in the usual way, but the altar is stripped bare and the Eucharist is reposed in a special side altar where it will remain until Mass is once again celebrated on Holy Saturday.

In some cultures, it became customary to visit churches on Holy Thursday evening after Mass.  The reason for the visits is to spend time in prayer in commemoration of Jesus’ night in prayer at the Garden of Gethsemane.  The act of visiting churches probably originated in Rome many years ago as a form of a pilgrimage.  How many churches should be visited?  Most cultures say 7 churches, which is quite possible if you live in a large city.  But time constraints usually held us to 3 – most churches now close at midnight or earlier so it is no longer possible to spend the night visiting churches.

This tradition in my life began when I was in high school.  It was 1982, and my friend Lou and I were 15 years old.  After the Mass that evening, the young priest at our parish and the nun that we helped at school asked if we would like to accompany them to visit a few churches.  Little did we know then that it was the start of a yearly tradition.  After high school, Lou entered the seminary and eventually was ordained a priest himself, so he did not continue the visits with us each year.  But other than a few years here and there, the three of us continued our tradition.

Because our practice itself became routine, it is the years that I broke with tradition that stand out in my memory.  One year Lou and I joined a friend and another parish priest, and we drove to a neighborhood in Philadelphia that has three big, beautiful, old churches all within two blocks of each other.  One of the three churches was St. Adalbert’s, and I was happy to visit there since I knew it was where my grandparents were married.  Since this was before my genealogy passion began, I did not know was that my great-grandfather was one of St. Adalbert’s founding parishioners.  During our visit, two men and two women broke the silence with song. They were professionally trained singers, and their spontaneous hymn was in beautiful 4-part harmony.  I remember little else about that night, but I can still remember being in awe at their song of praise.

In 2006, I was in Rome for Holy Thursday.  What a place to be – I could have visited a hundred churches that night!  They were all open, and lit candles lined the entrances to beckon you to enter.  We walked without a plan and quickly found several churches.  Some were famous, while others were small and not usually visited by tourists.  I don’t even remember the names of the places we visited, but the experience was special.  Even though I was far from my “traditional” friends, I was happy that I found other friends that wanted to share the experience.

There have been one or two other exceptions to the rule but aside from these few instances every other year – for the last 30 years – my “original” touring company continues the tradition.  When we gather after Mass, the first question is usually “Where are we going this year?”  A church name is suggested.  “Didn’t we go there last year?” It’s an amusing task to decide where to go, because we can never remember where we went year after year.

We have been to many churches more than once.  Every year we say we should write down our “picks” for the year, but we never do, and it’s more fun to argue about where we’ve been and haven’t been.  Over the decades, we have been to just about every church in Northeast Philadelphia (more than once) and a good portion of Lower Bucks County.  When Father was made a pastor in Delaware county, I’d pick up Sister and trek down that way for Mass, and we found a whole new cache of churches to visit.  And yet there are still many in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia that we have not yet seen.

Our tradition isn’t all pious, however – part of what makes the evening enjoyable is the company.  Some years, when life got in the way, it was the first time we had seen each other since the previous Holy Thursday.  Occasionally one of the three of us had to miss due to illness or other commitments, but the remaining two continued on schedule.  After our visits, we go out to eat (before the Good Friday fast begins) and catch up on each other’s lives and memories.

If you’ve never participated in the custom of visiting churches on Holy Thursday evening, consider starting your own tradition tonight!

Seeking the Flock of St. Patrick: Researching Catholic Ancestors in Ireland

The people of Ireland have long been proud of their Catholic heritage. Their beloved St. Patrick, whose feast day we celebrate today, brought Christianity to the pagan peoples of his adopted homeland. Ireland has never looked back. In honor of St. Patrick and the Catholic faith of many of the Irish people, The Catholic Gene focuses today on searching for ancestors in Irish Catholic records.

Irish genealogy can be a difficult task to begin – particularly for those whose ancestors emigrated generations back. The first step in the process is to work with all available records for all known ancestors (and their family members) in your own country. Before you can even begin to do research in Ireland, you have to be able to focus in on the town and/or townland from which your ancestors hailed. For many of us, that location can take years to discover. Once you do make that breakthrough, however, there are a number of strategies for beginning a successful search for ancestors using Irish records.

The records of Ireland’s Roman Catholic churches can be the best starting point and can play an important role in that search. Many a beginner seeking their Irish family tree has been disheartened by the news of the 1922 fire which destroyed all of the civil records (administrative, court and probate) that had been collected nationwide and stored at the Public Record Office of Ireland (some dating back to the 13th century). Thankfully, in the majority of cases, Roman Catholic registers were kept in individual parishes and did not suffer a catastrophic loss similar to the loss of civil records. They are, therefore, a much more comprehensive resource for the genealogist researching in Ireland.

Before civil registration extended to all of the country in 1864, church records were the only registries to record family information. Although the Church of Ireland had a presence in the country, the majority of the people were Roman Catholic, and those Church records are important to many in their search for Irish roots. Throughout the 16th to 19th centuries, the Roman Catholic Church faced severe persecution by the state, and accurate record-keeping was not always in the best interests of the Catholic faithful. It is difficult, therefore, to find Catholic parish registers dated earlier than the 1820s. However, records can be found as far back as the 1680s in urban areas and in anglicized regions in the eastern half of Ireland, though they are rare.

Old Irish gravestones in Drumragh Graveyard

Irish Roman Catholic records with genealogical interest come in both the Latin and English languages (very rarely Irish) and are primarily limited to baptismal and marriage records. Unfortunately, burial registers for Roman Catholics are difficult to come by, and those that do exist are typically found in the northern half of the country. An interesting sidenote regarding burials in Ireland: Irish gravestones today represent only 1% of the population, so don’t count on finding too many ancestors’ gravestones in a local Catholic cemetery.

The good news is that not only do some of the local parishes allow access to their records, but the National Library of Ireland has copies of almost all of the surviving registers from Irish Catholic parishes dated earlier than 1880. (The Public Records Office of Northern Ireland has microfilmed copies for Ulster Province.) Even the records of the Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly (which were restricted from access to researchers for sixteen years) are now accessible to family historians.

If you cannot make the trip to the National Library of Ireland yourself, try searching the LDS Family History Library Catalog. Approximately 40% of the Irish Roman Catholic Church registers have been microfilmed by the LDS – maybe you’ll find that your ancestors’ parish is within that group.

Another great resource for Irish Catholic records is the strong network of heritage centers located in each county of Ireland. Visit the Irish Family History Foundation’s Roots Ireland website for information about county heritage centers throughout the island. The site features a map indicating each heritage center by county with links to a searchable index for each heritage center with an online presence (which is most of them). The first ten searches are free, but the website’s user account credit system charges a small fee for additional searches.  There is an additional fee to access records.

For a good start at learning which records might be available for your ancestors and where they might be located, visit the Irish Times’ Roman Catholic Records map of Ireland.

An Irish Genealogical Researcher’s Pot of Gold

The Irish diaspora throughout the world continues to keep alive a worldwide interest in Irish culture and genealogy. Thanks to strong loyalty to their ancestral land, there is a wealth of resources available to those researching their roots in the Emerald Isle.

St. Vincent's Catholic Church, Kerry, Ireland

If you are beginning work on your Irish family tree, or you are well into the lifelong search we call genealogy, you may find the following websites and resources helpful:
Family Search’s wiki resource page on Ireland
Irish Times’ Roman Catholic Records map of Ireland
National Library of Ireland (NLI)
Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI)
• Irish Family History Foundation’s Roots Ireland website
• Claire Santry’s Irish Genealogy Toolkit

Good books that can aid you in your search for Irish genealogy in Roman Catholic records include:
Tracing Your Irish Ancestors by John Grenham (updated 4th edition will be published on March 30, 2012)
Irish Records: Sources for Family and Local History by James Ryan
How to Trace Your Irish Ancestors by Ian Maxwell
A Guide to Irish Parish Registers by Brian Mitchell
Guide to Irish Churches and Graveyards by Brian Mitchell

There are many well-written blogs which focus on Irish genealogy. Some of my favorites include:
• Jennifer Geraghty-Gorman’s ‘On a flesh and bone foundation:’ An Irish History
Donna Moughty’s Genealogy Blog
• Deborah Large Fox’ Help! The Faerie Folk Hid My Ancestors

You might also enjoy my own two Irish genealogy blogs: Small-leaved Shamrock and A light that shines again.

Cathedral of St. Colman in Cobh, Ireland

Article 2 of the Irish constitution states: “The Irish nation cherishes its special affinity with people of Irish ancestry living abroad who share its cultural identity and heritage.” On this St. Patrick’s Day, as you wear your green and take pride in your family’s ties to Ireland, The Catholic Gene – and this half-Irish author – wish you the luck of the Irish upon your genealogical search.

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