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 ,seeing 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 Protect 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’.
The preceding summary is based on text kindly supplied to us by Ned McGinley, Past AOH National President.