The Ancient Order of Hibernians in America (AOH) was formally established at New York’s St. James Church on May 4, 1836 in response to threats from nativist Protestants against Catholic churches and priests, and Irish American homes and businesses. Its members stood watch through the night, guarding their houses of worship from vandalism and violence and protecting their community in its new country. The AOH also welcomed recent arrivals from Ireland, helping to their feet the tens of thousands of refugees fleeing An Gorta Mor ("the Great Famine") in the 1840s and 50s. In these ways, it mirrored—and was descended from—earlier, informal organizations in Ireland stretching back to the sixteenth century and dedicated to protecting the people and the Church against incessant persecution.
Though the Irish immigrants were eventually accepted as Americans, they never forgot their heritage, culture, and homeland. As the needs of the community evolved, so did the AOH, shedding its militant origins and serving more as a gathering place and center for Irish culture in America, preserving and cultivating the Irish traditions of art, dance, music, and sports, and keeping the community together. The AOH has also been at the forefront of issues concerning the Irish and the Catholic Church and has proven a powerful voice and lobbying force.
Though we have changed since our foundation almost two centuries ago, the AOH has retained its dual Irish and Catholic character. We are proud sons of Erin and loyal sons of the Church. Our membership today spans generations and degrees of closeness with Ireland, but we all share in common our faith, our ancestral pride, and our desire for Friendship, Unity, and Christian Charity. We invite you to join us today!
Dia 's Muire dhuit! ("God and Mary be with you")
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