What is the Ancient Order of Hibernians?
The Ancient Order of Hibernians (A.O.H.) is a Catholic Irish-American Fraternal Organization founded in New York City on May 4, 1836. The Order can trace its roots back to a parent organization of the same name that has existed in Ireland for more than 300 years. However, while the organizations share a common thread, the North American A.O.H. is a separate and much larger organization.
The Order evolved from a need in the early 1600s to protect the lives of priests who risked immediate death to keep the Catholic faith alive in occupied Ireland, after the reign of England's King Henry VIII. When England implemented its dreaded penal laws in Ireland, various secret social societies were formed across the country. These groups worked to aid and comfort the people by whatever means available.
The Ancient Order of Hibernians was founded on May 4, 1836 at New York's St. James Church to protect the clergy and church property from the "Know Nothings" and their followers. At the same time, the vast influx of Irish immigrants fleeing the famine in Ireland in the late 1840s prompted a growth of various social societies in the USA -- the largest of which and continues to be the Ancient Order of Hibernians.
Active across the United States, the Order seeks to aid the newly arrived Irish, both socially and politically. The many divisions and club facilities located throughout the United States traditionally have been among the first to welcome new Irish immigrants. Here, the Irish culture -- art, dance, music and sports -- are fostered and preserved. The newcomers can meet some of "their own" and are introduced to the social atmosphere of the Irish-American community. The A.O.H. has been at the political forefront for issues concerning the Irish, such as: immigration reform; economic incentives, both here and in Ireland; human rights issues, both here and in Ireland; the human rights issues addressed in the MacBride Legislation; Right to Life; and a peaceful and just solution to the issues that divide Ireland.
The Order also has provided a continuing bridge with Ireland for those who are generations removed from our country. The A.O.H. sponsors many of the programs associated with promoting our Irish heritage, such as the Irish Way.
Members of the A.O.H. come from all walks of life and social and economic backgrounds yet enjoy fraternal fellowship in our Irish heritage.
See a special video presentation on the history of the Ancient Order of Hibernians.
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AOH Williamsburg members John Cummings, John Flynn, and Ted Drennan enjoying a Saint Patrick's Day celebration!