how time works

In May 2003, the officers and members of St. Brendan’s Division #1, Berks County Ancient Order of Hibernians, decided it was time to consider establishing a Home Association and Social Quarters, the lifelong dream of the divisions founding members of the AOH in 1979.  To fulfill this goal, it was necessary that they established a separate, and wholly independent corporation, not associated with the Ancient Order of Hibernians to meet legal parameters established for this purpose by the National Board of the AOH in America.

It is also understood that the Officers of St. Brendan’s Div. #1, AOH Berks County, as well as the County, State and National Boards of the AOH in America, are  not affiliated, legally or otherwise with “The Berks County Irish-American Fraternal Association.”  Any similarities between the St. Brendan’s Division #1, and the AOH in America, and The Berks county Irish-American Fraternal Association is strictly coincidental, and neither share responsibility, legally, financially or otherwise, for the actions of the other, as directed in the Articles of Incorporation of the Home Association.

Who or what is the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America?

The Ancient Order of Hibernians is a Catholic, Irish American Fraternal Organization founded in New York City May 4,1836. The Order can trace its roots back to a parent organization, of the same name, which has existed in Ireland for over 300 years. However, while the organizations share a common thread, the North American A.O.H. is a separate and much larger organization.

The Order evolved from a need in the early sixteen hundreds to protect the lives of priests who risked immediate death to keep the Catholic Faith alive in occupied Ireland after the reign of England’s King Henry VIII.  When England implemented its dreaded Penal Laws in Ireland, various secret social societies were formed across the country. These groups worked to aid and comfort the people by whatever means available. Similarly, The Ancient Order of Hibernians in America was founded May 4th, 1836 at New York’s St. James Church, to protect the clergy, and church Property from the “Know Nothings” and their followers.  The next day, the second branch of the AOH was formed in Pottsville, which eventually became the National Headquarters of the Order until the 1850’s when it was moved to New York City.  Due to the vast influx of Irish Immigrants fleeing famine issues in Ireland in the late 1840’s, the Ancient Order of Hibernians became, and continues to be, one of the leading Irish-Catholic Fraternal Organizations in the USA dedicated to promoting Irish Heritage, history and culture.

Active across the United States, The Order seeks to aid the newly arrived Irish, both socially, politically. The many Divisions and club facilities located throughout the U.S. traditionally have been among the first to welcome new Irish Americans. Here, the Irish culture — art, dance, music, and sports are fostered and preserved. The AOH has been at the political forefront for issues concerning the Irish, such as; Immigration Reform; economic Incentives both here and in Ireland; the human rights issues addressed in the MacBride Legislation; Right-To-Life; and a peaceful and just solution to the issues that divide Ireland

The AOH was first organized in Reading during the 1850’s or 1860’s and they held their meetings at St. Peter’s Parish hall. We recently came into possession of Articles of Incorporation for “The Benevolent Beneficial Society of the Ancient Order of Hibernians of the City of Reading and State of Pennsylvania.”  The date of the filing was November 7, 1860, and the charter of incorporation was granted January 21, 1861.  The Charter and By-Laws of incorporation were acquired from the office of the Berks County Recorder of Deeds which proves that our Order was in Berks County in the 1850’s.  Unfortunately, other than the By-Laws and charter little else is known of those early days.

What happened after the Charter of Incorporation was granted is unknown.  Possibly the era of the Mollie Maguires may have led to the demise of the Order at the time since the Catholic Church had condemned membership in the Order.  However, there was an organization known as the “St. Patrick Benevolent Association” associated with St. Peter’s Church up until 1887 when the AOH appeared again. by the early 1890’s the Order had expanded to two divisions serving the needs of the Irish community in both St. Peter’s and St. Joseph’s Parishes in Reading.

In any case, “St. Patrick’s Benevolent Association” and the Ancient Order of Hibernians, provided much needed support for the newly arrived Irish immigrants who often faced discrimination on their arrival in Reading.  Most of the immigrants lived in Southeast Reading and worked in the Cotton Mills, Canals, Railroads, or as domestics to work off the cost of their passage to America. The organizations created a support network to help the newly arrived immigrants to understand their new surroundings

Interested in Joining?

Membership in the Ancient Order of Hibernians, Inc. is confined to men 16 years and older who are practicing Roman Catholics of Irish birth or descent and who are citizens of United States of America or who have declared their intentions to become citizens of the United States of America.  You may seek admittance to the FINEST Irish Catholic Organization in the World — all we would ask is for you to live our motto of: “Friendship, Unity, and Christian Charity”.