Irish-American Heritage Month is a special proclamation issued yearly by the United States president to honor the achievements and contributions of Irish immigrants and the roles they have played in the formation of our nation. The heritage month is in March to coincide with the Irish national holiday on March 17, Saint Patrick’s Day.
Saint Patrick’s Day is a religious holiday that honors the saint who introduced Christianity to Ireland in the early fifth century, but the holiday has evolved into a celebration of all things Irish. The first celebration of this national holiday traces back to New York City in March 1762, featuring Irish soldiers serving in the British military protecting the colonies during the French and Indian War.
In 1948, President Harry Truman attended the New York Saint Patrick’s Day parade and gave a speech to the attendees. This was a proud moment for many people of Irish descent, whose ancestors had to fight stereotypes and prejudice to find acceptance in America.
In tribute to all Irish-Americans, the U.S. Congress by Public Law 101-418, designated March 1991 as “Irish-American Heritage Month.” Within the authority of the executive branch, the president of the United States has since issued a proclamation each year.
“Tens of millions of Americans proudly trace their heritage to the Emerald isle,” said President Barack Obama. “They are descendants of our Founding Fathers, heirs to a resilient spirit forged during the Great Hunger and painful periods of discrimination, and the latest in a long line of Irish-Americans who have poured their energy and passion into perfecting our Union. With grit and determination, they have enhanced our communities, bolstered our economy, and strengthened our nation. Let us celebrate the people-to-people ties between our nations and continue together our work to forge a brighter tomorrow for every American and Irish child.”
During this month, Saint Xavier University (SXU) celebrates its founding Irish heritage by honoring the Sisters of Mercy who traveled from Ireland to establish this great institution, while setting a precedent of being the first and only female religious group in Chicago. Today, the Sisters of Mercy continue their mission of serving “the poor, the sick and the uneducated” in the name of Jesus Christ. The vibrant culture and rich heritage of the Irish people has shaped the early chapters of SXU’s history and will continue to grow alongside the institution.