Always Faithful: The New York Carmelites, the Irish People and Their Freedom Movement

By Quinn, John F. | The Catholic Historical Review, April 2005 | Go to article overview

Always Faithful: The New York Carmelites, the Irish People and Their Freedom Movement


Quinn, John F., The Catholic Historical Review


Isacsson, Alfred, O.Carm. Always Faithful: The New York Carmelites, the Irish People and Their Freedom Movement. (Middletown, New York: Vestigium Press. 2004. Pp. vi, 168. $15.00 paperback.)

In this slender volume, Father Alfred Isacsson, O.Carm., seeks to demonstrate that several of his confreres played a critical part in the Irish revolutionary movement from the 1916 Easter Rising through the Civil War of 1922-1923. Isacsson focuses particularly on Peter Magennis, an Irish-born Carmelite who served intermittently at Our Lady of the Scapular, the Carmelites' parish on the East Side of Manhattan. In 1918 Magennis was elected president of the Friends of Irish Freedom and the following year he went to Rome to take up the position of Prior General of his community. A thoroughgoing revolutionary, Magennis backed Patrick Pearse's Easter Rebellion and the Irish Republican Army's subsequent war against the British. When Eamon de Valera took up arms against Michael Collins and the Free State forces, he sided with de Valera and referred to the Free State leaders as "contemptible" (p. 80).

Numerous other Carmelite friars shared Magennis' militant republican sympathies. Our Lady of the Scapular parish served as a refuge and at times a hiding place for de Valera and his associates, Harry Boland and Liam Mellows. Isacsson argues convincingly that the New York friars were also involved in gun-running and money-laundering for the Irish rebels.

While Isacsson does not focus as much on the Irish Carmelites, it is clear that many of them were just as radical as the New Yorkers.

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