A Mayo man is spearheading a major Covid-19 commemoration project for the Irish community in New Jersey this weekend – and a specially commissioned limestone hand-carved Celtic cross has been shipped over from Roscommon for the event.
Oliver Browne, a native of Aughafadda, The Neale, is co-chair of the event, which will remember all those who lost their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. Clan na hEireann stage the event at the Shillelagh Club, West Orange New Jersey, on Sunday next, and it will also be streamed live on ShillelaghClub.com
"Now that the end is in sight for the COVID-19 pandemic, we are hosting this outdoor memorial Mass to support those who have lost loved ones over the past 18 months,” said Oliver, a former The Neale footballer who is a leading light of the Irish community in New Jersey.
"We commissioned a limestone hand-carved Celtic Cross from Michael Carney Memorial Headstones, Portahard, Frenchpark, Co Roscommon, and this has been shipped over to New Jersey and is already in place.
"It has been a very tough 18 or so months for Irish people here, not least because some members of the community lost loved ones at home and couldn’t travel back to Ireland to be with them in their final days or for their funeral ceremonies. I experienced that myself in January when my father, Oliver Snr, passed away. My wife, sons and I couldn’t get home for the funeral because of the pandemic. We were very grateful for the opportunity to watch a stream of the funeral Mass and burial, but it just wasn’t the same as being there.
"Our ceremony on Sunday next is to remember all those who passed away during the strange circumstances of the past year and a half, and also to acknowledge the pain and loss experienced by their family members.
"It was a major logistical undertaking to get the Celtic cross commissioned and transported here to New Jersey, but it has been worth it all – it is a work of art that will form a centrepiece of the Shillelagh Club’s grounds for many years to come."
The memorial event will also recognise the generations of Irish immigrants who "charted the way forward to help us to continue supporting our communities," added Oliver.
Those attending will bring framed photographs of their loved ones to be displayed and blessed during the service. Those wishing to donate can do so on www.gofundme.me/77933a1a