The Annual Luncheon of the St. Patrick’s Society of Montreal (SPS) took place on Friday, March 15, 2024, at the Centre Sheraton in downtown Montreal. That was two days before the feast day of St. Patrick, March 17, 2024, the day of the Green Mass at St. Patrick’s Basilica.  

Many members of the Catholic Community of Montreal were among the hundreds gathered for the occasion, sporting various shades of green, the unofficial and emblematic colour of Ireland, representing the shamrock, which, St. Patrick is reputed to have used to explain the mystery of the Trinity. Representatives included the Foundation for Catholic Community Services, the English-speaking Catholic Council, Pillars Trust, St. Patrick’s Basilica, St. Veronica Parish, Jesus Light of the World Parish, Holy Family Parish, St. Patrick’s Foundation, Momentum, and employees at the Archdiocesan offices, 2000, Sherbrooke Street West. 

The occasion also marked the 190th anniversary of the SPS Society and attracted many dignitaries including Micheál Martin, Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister of Ireland) & Minister for Foreign Affairs of Ireland; Joe Hackett, Secretary General, Department of Foreign Affairs of Ireland; and His Excellency Éamonn McKee, Ambassador of Ireland to Canada; Grand Chief of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawà:ke, Grand Chief Kahsennenhawe Sky-Deer; Sterling Downey, representing the Mayor of Montreal and City Councillor for the district of Desmarchais-Crawford, Borough of Verdun; and James Maloney, Member of Parliament for the riding of Etobicoke-Lakeshare and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. 

Kevin Callahan, member of the SPS board and Chair of the Luncheon committee opened the event with a Land Acknowledgement, acknowledging the gratitude of the Canadian Irish for the support of the First Nations during the Gorta Mór, the Great Hunger, 1845-1850.  

The Tánaiste toasted the island of Ireland in a speech that underscored the similarities between our two nations, the close ties due to similar histories, political, religious, and economic, and the strength of the current economic collaboration. 

Father Raymond Lafontaine, Episcopal Vicar to the English-speaking Catholic community of Montreal and Reverend Dr. Glen Chestnut said an Irish blessing and grace before the meal was served. 

The Guest of Honour and Keynote Speaker, Eoin Ó hÓgáin, is an Irishman from Kilkenny, Ireland, living in Montreal for the past eight years and working at Power Sustainable where he is partner and Chief Investment Officer. Father of three girls, he is a catechist at the parish of Ascension of our Lord and a member of the board of the Foundation for Canadian Irish Studies. Passionate about the protection and promotion of the Irish language and a polyglot himself, he is raising his daughters with Irish. 

Mr. Ó hÓgáin’s keynote address raised a standing ovation as he eloquently spoke about Saint Patrick, situating the patron saint of Ireland in a social, political, economic, and religious context akin to our current reality. Speaking of Saint Patrick, Mr. Ó hÓgáin said that ‘It took one mad zealot to dramatically change the course of history, and to bring a thing of beauty out of the ruins of Roman collapse,’ that is, the heritage of the land of saints and scholars that has had a broad influence ever since. He highlighted lessons to be learned for our times, including reminding us how ‘Canadians responded to the Irish immigration and disease crisis with resolution, humanity, and no small amount of personal courage,’ even to the point of death (including 7 of the 40 Soeurs Grises and Montreal’s mayor Mills). On the socio-political front, Mr. Ó hÓgáin recognized the impact of those Irish refugees, brave workers, adventurers, thinkers had on the nascent idea of Canada - including creating a culture of inclusivity and promoting the dignity, rights, and freedoms of every human being.  

On the current looming disaster – the threat to our common home - Mr. Ó hÓgáin called on all present to learn from St Patrick and the early Irish newcomers to Canada. ‘We will need vision, we will need uncompromising zealots, we will need people who can persuade and bring some colour, portray an attractive bigger picture to people, go beyond the policy documents and engineering studies. The Canadian Irish are a good start.’ 

This was a good segue into presenting Saint Patrick’s Society 2024 Community Award to Mr. Joseph Quinn, former firefighter, best known for his long and ardent support of the needy in Verdun through the Manna Food Bank. 

The hotel did the Irish proud with great service and an attention to detail including the floral arrangements representing the national flag of Ireland, formally confirmed in the 1937 Constitution, a tricolour of green, white, and orange, intended to symbolize the inclusion of and the aspiration for unity between people of different traditions on the island of Ireland.  


Martina McLean