LAST WEEK, Mary McAleese, president of the Republic of Ireland, visited Baltimore during a five-day tour of the United States. Members of the Maryland State Chapter of the Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians (Hibernia is the Latin name for Ireland) were invited by Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malleyto act as hostesses for the president.
The LAOH, an organization for Irish-Catholic women and girls, has 500 members statewide. On Sunday, the LAOH held a meeting at Wilde Lake Interfaith Center to form its first chapter in Howard County.
The LAOH was organized in Omaha, Neb., in 1894 as the Daughters of Erin. The group's primary purpose was to protect young immigrant Irish girls, help them find employment and offer support to keep them from becoming homesick and discouraged. "We have a slogan, 'We're Irish-Catholic women on the go - moving forward into the 21st century,'" said Carole Franz, membership chairwoman for the Maryland State Chapter of the LAOH.
The LAOH might havechanged with the times, but it keeps many of the old traditions. Individual chapters elect a sentinel to guard the door as was the custom in the days when such meetings were held in secret.
Today, the sentinel has the responsibility of guarding the door, but is more likely to be called upon to stop small children or noise coming from hallways from disrupting the meeting instead of protecting meetings from prying eyes.
The group's motto, "Friendship, Unity and Christian Charity," hasn't changed from the early days.
Each year, the LAOH organizes Baltimore's Irish Festival and the St. Patrick's Day Parade.
The organization is also involved in a number of charities, including Irish Charities of Maryland.
A dozen women attended the meeting Sunday, becoming charter members of the new chapter.
Most, like Patricia O'Donnellof Dorsey Hall, are looking for opportunities to connect with other Irish-Catholic women and participate in community and charitable activities.
Two years ago, O'Donnell's family made a trip to Ireland to celebrate her parents' 40th anniversary.
She became enchanted by the people and the beautiful countryside.
"The Irish are a very proud and intelligent people," she said. "Because I saw where my roots were, I wanted to be able to bring back some of the cultural experiences I had there."
Upon her return to the United States, O'Donnell, 40, began taking Irish step dancing lessons.
She hopes that joining the LAOH will be a way to continue learning about and celebrating her Irish heritage.
Wilde Lake resident Bernadette Mooreis originally from Northern Ireland. "It seems like a good opportunity to get together with a group of women from similar backgrounds," she said.
The Howard County chapter of the LAOH elected its first officers Sunday.
They are: Bernadette Moore, president; Pat O'Donnell, vice president; Sheila Reiss, recording secretary; Kathleen Mikszan, treasurer; Lisa Dryhurst, financial secretary; Natalie Harvey, historian; Kimberly Buckley, Catholic action chair; Maria Belchambers, missions and charities chair; Donna Duncan, mistress of arms; and Bernice Kish, sentinel.
'Countdown to Dance'
On Friday, 70 students in the dance program at Atholton High School performed in "Countdown to Dance," under the direction of teacher Trish Spruill, showcasing the talents of dancers from the beginner, intermediate and advanced classes.
One of the performers, ChrissyMcCurry, 18, received the Excellence in Dance Performance Award at a ceremony May 15.
Spruill said she chose McCurry for the award because of her versatility in all styles of dance and her ability to connect with a crowd."She can draw them into her performance with the use of her face," Spruill said."It's an honor to be chosen," McCurry said.
Wilde Lake scholars
Congratulations to Andrew Daniller, Wilde Lake High School's National Merit Finalist. He was also a member of the school's "It's Academic" team. Congratulations are also in order for these Wilde Lake High School students who received trophies, ribbons and certificates for their outstanding science fair projects: Ana Mikallov, Nick Silock, Jessica Bagley, Karen Guralnick, Amber Arshad, Julia Drissen, Bonnaliu Kundu, Ashley Yancichand Tessa Mandopoulous.