By Mgr Daniel McHugh, Co-ordinator Ethnic Chaplaincies.

The Church was full for a Mass that highlighted the story at the heart of the marking of 17 March, the day Patrick died in 461. It is a story of Faith and Love: Patrick’s Faith in Christ and Love for the people of Ireland.

The Mass was that of the 5th Sunday of Lent with some lovely Irish Music and Dance. To the fore were the Hymns Christ be beside me; Ag Criost An Siol; Lady of Knock and Hail Glorious St Patrick, led by Clan Mac Siúirtán; and an Offertory Dance by young girls from Scanlon School of Irish Dancing.

The Mass was an opportunity to draw the attention of the Congregation to the fact that on 14th March in Westminster Hall, MPs held a debate on St Patrick’s Day and the contribution of the Irish diaspora to the UK

Ahead of the debate, Bishop Paul McAleenan, who was born in Belfast and trained for the priesthood at St Patrick’s College in Thurles, Republic of Ireland, sent MPs a message celebrating St Patrick and the Irish Catholic contribution to the Church in England and Wales.

In the pack produced for the debate:

  • Niall Gallagher, chairman of Irish Heritage, an organisation that celebrates the work of Irish writers, composers, singers and musicians who are trying to build careers in the UK and beyond, has described the contribution of the Irish to cultural life in the UK as “incalculable”.
  • The contribution of Irish labour to the British construction industry was described by Sir William McAlpine as “immeasurable”.
  • Irish people have also contributed greatly to the National Health Service; President of Ireland Michael D Higgins paid tribute to their service during his 2014 State Visit to the UK.

In his Pastoral Letter for the Fifth Sunday of Lent which was delivered by the Principal Celebrant, Bishop David Evans, Archbishop Longley wrote: “This weekend we also ask for the intercession of St Patrick – the Patron Saint of Ireland and of Nigeria – and I offer my thanks for the longstanding work and witness of clergy, Religious, families and individuals from Ireland, and more recently from Nigeria, in so many of the parishes and Chaplaincies of the Archdiocese.”

Personally, I recall my time as Director of Religious Education for the Archdiocese when I was very conscious of the huge number of Parishes and Schools (roughly 228 Parishes, and 224 Primary and 40 Secondary Schools) the Department of Religious Education and Catechetics was called to serve: how many of those grew and flourished because of the Irish immigrants, and the Priests and Religious who followed them.

St Patrick’s Day was a day to give thanks for the Faith and Love that played such an important part in this contribution of the Church to the Life of our country and our diocese.

The Parade that followed, organised by the Irish Association, witnessed the happiness of Irish People in Birmingham on the Feast Day of Irland’s Patron Saint; a celebration that goes as far back as 1952. Thousands gathered in one of the best celebrations for years. It was good that the Association and the Archdiocese co-operated so that the heart of St Patrick’s Day is not lost in what is now an International Festival that has come adrift from its roots.

Thanks to Bishop David Evans, Principal Celebrant; St Anne’s Parish Priest Fr Robert Murphy who hosted the Mass and the Parishioners; to Father Eamonn Corduff, the Irish Ethnic Chaplaincy; and to the many lay people like Jim Tomlinson who have kept the Parade Day Mass at the heart of festivities; and to Con McHugh, my cousin, who recorded the Day for us.

Mgr Daniel McHugh

Co-ordinator Ethnic Chaplaincies

St Patrick's Day Mass at St Anne's Digbeth

Photo Gallery: St Patrick's Day 2024

St Patrick's Day Mass and Parade 2024