It is at once a great honor and a solemn obligation to work with so many dedicated sons and daughters of Erin to produce the world renowned New York City St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
In all humility, I thank John Lahey and my colleagues on the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Board of Directors for providing me with this opportunity to serve as Chairman. Thanks also to our partners at the St. Patrick’s Day Foundation for their continuing support. The primary duties of the Chairman are to serve the members of the parade community; to provide strategic leadership, and to help ensure the future of the parade while remaining faithful to our mission of celebrating Irish faith, heritage and culture.
Some years ago, we formed a foundation to partner with our parade’s board and marching groups to better meet the two greatest challenges to our future. These are: financial stability and long term growth and support for the causes important to our community. Before the foundation existed, each year the parade raised just about enough to fund that year’s event.
Thanks to our foundation board and our community’s support, the parade now has the biggest surplus ever. This enabled us to revive the parade scholarship program several years ago. In the last year, we increased the number of scholarships from six to nine, including three in Timothy Cardinal Dolan’s name to highlight the importance of Catholic education. As a major initiative, we want to greatly expand this program as we move forward.
Apart from funding, the other long term challenge for the parade has been a lack of growth in support for our marching groups and our causes due to a large drop in Irish immigration. Last year Ireland received 124 visas out of 50,000 issued by the U.S. We put the Emerald Isle Immigration Center on our TV broadcast these past two years. We have been talking to Brian O ‘Dwyer and others about what we should be doing to help with Irish immigration. We have sought to work side by side with our affiliated organizations and promote their causes with the powerful parade platform.
To that end, we are working with the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians, the United Irish Counties, the Grand Counsel of United Emerald Societies, the New York Police Department, the New York Fire Department, the 69th Infantry Regiment and the schools and colleges that march in the parade. We have reached out to the broader Irish American community and other charities for their support, such as the folks at Northwell Health and the American Ireland Fund. These efforts been quite successful and we will continue to build on it.
Going forward, we will continue to involve our marching groups as much as possible in our events, initiatives, and decision making and will look for ways to be even more proactive.
The parade in many ways parallels the beautiful St. Patrick’s Cathedral which lies at its very heart. In 1853 County Tyrone man Archbishop John Hughes announced his intention to erect a new Cathedral to replace the Old Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Lower Manhattan. When the building was completed in 1878 it was the tallest structure in New York City. It was first and foremost built as a monument to faith, but was also a statement that the Irish had arrived and were here to stay. The city has changed around the Cathedral as our community has continued to evolve. The parade is similar in this regard, since 1762 it has been a symbol of Irish faith and determination and long it will remain so.
Keeping these traditions alive is an enormous challenge, requiring all of us to work together. Your insights are welcome – and necessary.
Together, we must honor our past but keep an eye towards the future to ensure we continue to not only survive but to thrive.
Sean Lane was recently elected Chairman of the New York City St. Patrick’s Day Board of Directors. He is co-founder of the St Patrick’s Day Foundation. In 2017, Sean was appointed as an honorary member of the 69th Regiment for services to the military by the U.S. Secretary of the Army. Since 2011, he has been honored each year as one of the 50 most prominent Irish Americans on Wall Street by Irish America Magazine.