Bishop John Kirby, Bishop of Clonfert and chair of the Irish Episcopal Commission for Emigrants, departed yesterday for a twelve day visit to the United States of America to meet with Irish emigrants, prisoners and their representatives in Boston and in San Francisco.
The purpose of the visit is to promote the relevance of Church outreach as a key support to emigrants and to recognise the work of staff and volunteers of the Irish Apostolate USA. Bishop Kirby is accompanied by the bishops’ emigrant officer Mr Brian Hanley.
During his visit to San Francisco, Bishop Kirby will visit to the site of the Berkeley balcony collapse tragedy and bless the trees planted by President Michael D Higgins in memory of the young people who died and those who were injured in June 2015.
The Irish Apostolate USA is the joint response of the Irish and United States Catholic bishops to the needs of Irish immigrants in the United States. This year also marks the 30th anniversary of the Irish Pastoral Centre in Boston and the 20th anniversary of the centre in San Francisco.
Ahead of his visit, Bishop Kirby said, ‘The Church in Ireland has a long tradition of supporting our emigrants, both pastorally and practically. It is heart-breaking to see our people leave but our strong family and parish ties are a valuable support network for our emigrants. However there are a large number of undocumented Irish emigrants living a twilight existence in the US, and it is this vulnerable group that I am most concerned about.’
‘Each year special collections are undertaken in a number of dioceses for emigrants and these funds provide financial assistance to Irish centres in the US, the UK and elsewhere so as to develop key services and supports for the more vulnerable members of the Irish community abroad. The generosity of parishioners at home shows a keen awareness of the challenge emigration poses to our culture, both historically and up to the present. I hope to convey this positive message of support to the staff and volunteers in our centres in America.’
During his visit to the States, Bishop Kirby will visit the Irish Pastoral Centre – Boston, which was founded in 1987 in response to the large increase in Irish immigrants in the Greater Boston area. The centre offers spiritual, family, social, legal, and educational services to more than 1,300 vulnerable and at-risk immigrants in the Greater Boston area.
While in Boston, Bishop Kirby will meet with a cross section of Irish emigrants of all ages as well as with An Tánaiste, Ms Francis Fitzgerald; Ambassador to the United States, His Excellency Mr Daniel Mulhall; and other Irish diplomats and members of Boston’s clergy.
Bishop Kirby will also visit the Irish Immigration Pastoral Centre in San Francisco, which this year celebrates 20 years since its founding in 1997. The IIPC is ‘a parish without boundaries’ whose mission is to provide a home away from home for Irish immigrants in the Western United States.
During his visit to San Francisco, Bishop Kirby will join Immigrant Chaplain and President of the Irish Immigrant Pastoral Centre, Father Brendan McBride, for a series of events to celebrate the 20th anniversary. Alongside this, Bishop Kirby will meet with Archbishop of San Francisco, Salvatore Cordileone, with Irish-born priests and religious serving their ministry in the Bay Area, and with members of the undocumented Irish community.
Bishop Kirby will close his trip with the celebration of a Mass for the Irish community at Saint Phillip’s Church to mark the 20th anniversary celebration on 11 November.