Great Chicago Welcome for Fr. Sean

Posted By: July 11, 2011

Dick Stanton and Mary Gorski
Jim Mc Donnell
Fr. Sean and Maureen O’Looney

Shannon Rovers Band

Monday, July 19, 2011—Chicago was true to form in its welcome for Fr. Sean Mc Manus.
In the Windy City for the launch of his widely hailed Memoirs, My American Struggle for Justice in Northern Ireland ( Collins Press. Cork), Fr. Mc Manus was given a wonderful, generous welcome.
He spoke and signed books for two days, Saturday, July 9 and Sunday, July 10 at the huge Irish Fest held at the Irish American Heritage Center.
The Fermanagh-born priest, President of the Capitol Hill-based Irish National Caucus, said: “ I simply could not have asked for nicer or more friendly and helpful people. They made me feel totally welcome as if I were a Chicago resident”.
He went on to explain: “ The legendary Maureen O’ Looney, whom I have known for almost 40 years, got me the” best seat in the house – the most centrally located stall in the entire outside area, where our big book –banner was totally prominent .A very special moment came when the most impressive men and women of the Pipers and Drummers of the Shannon Rovers Band came and played Amazing Grace right in front of my book stall.( See photos).
Fr. Mc Manus went on to thank Mrs. Peig Reid, Librarian, of the Irish American Heritage Center, for inviting him to speak. He also paid special thanks to his long-time associate, Chicago arbitration- attorney Dick Stanton. “ Dick has a passionate interest in the Irish struggle for justice, and a keen intellectual awareness of all its history and complexities. He and Betty were a wonderful help”.

The intrepid Jim Mc Donnell, visiting from Division 1 AOH in Rockland County NY, (and known as “ The Voice”, because of his great speaking voice) was my pitchman. Sounding like Ed Mc Mahon of the famed Johnny Carson Show, Jim was constantly announcing on the public address system, “ Come on over and say hello to Fr. Mc Manus. He has written a great book. You all should read it”.
Fr. Mc Manus, who in the early years of his campaigning, had been to Chicago many times, but had not been back for about 15 years, recalled: “ Chicago had the reputation of the most fractious city on the Irish issue — splits, counter- splits, then more splits. But on this occasion I did not meet with one negative reaction from among the thousands of people attending the Irish Fest. There was, however, one funny “ pretend-negative” response. An elderly Irish-born woman wagged her finger at me and in feigned indignation said, “ Fr. Mc Manus I have a most serious complaint about your book.” “What is it”, said I, playing along. She replied : “ My husband bought a copy yesterday and sat up reading it until 4 AM. You ruined my sex life”. I shot back, “ You should be thanking me for keeping that old Irishman from bothering you”. She doubled over laughing and ran off to tell her husband what I said.
There was also a somber, moving moment. A big quiet, shy, guy came up and asked me to sign a book to his parents. Then he paused, and said, “ Could you write something else on it, Father?” I said sure. “ Please write, “ Tom (not his real name) will be fine”.
I said that sounds like a prayer and a blessing “ Tom”.
He said it was and that his parents were very worried about him because he was going back on his fourth mission to Afghanistan – and on the previous three missions he had last a third of his team.
Sitting next to me was a very spiritual lady and she immediately asked him was he wearing a St. Michael medal (the defender against principalities and powers).
He immediately dug under the neck of his shirt, and, producing a medal, said, “ No. I am wearing a St. Gerard medal”. Being a Redemptorist, that immediately got my attention, and I pointed out the Redemptorist saint was the Patron Saint of pregnant mothers. He said, “ That’s why I am wearing it. When my mother was pregnant with me, the doctors told her she would lose her baby. She prayed night and day to St. Gerard and I was safely delivered”.
When I told him I was a Redemptorist, he was quite overcome and said, “ My Mother will now know God brought me here today”. I said a prayer with him and he went off with a spring in his step.
For some reason I found the moment most poignant. Whatever one thinks of wars or why they happen, on the ground -level there is the individual soldier/civilian who is trying to do his duty, and hoping he will come out of it alive”.