I grew up in the Catholic faith having an Irish/Italian ancestry.
My priest, Father Martin, sang this Irish blessing to us at mass on/or near St. Patrick’s Day in his thick, Irish brogue.
“May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.”
We always talked about where he came from in Ireland – a farm outside of Dublin.
I would tell him the little I knew about my Grandmother’s family – she was from a small island off the coast of Galway, Lettermullen.
He told me that he never heard of it.
Every summer, Father Martin visited Ireland.
I never forgot to mention my grandmother and my O’Flaherty ancestry in Lettermullen to him.
I hoped that one year he would have some news for me. It wasn’t meant to be.
My grandmother and I used to send correspondence to each other from the time I could write until just before she passed away.
In one of her letters to me, she included a picture of her childhood home – a picture I treasured.
This picture would lead me to my family almost 25 years after her death.
In February 2012, dreary winter days in Cleveland left me thinking about my ancestry.
Where did I come from?
Did I still have family in Ireland?
I started to do some research on Ancestry.com.
There were still O’Flaherty’s in Lettermullen.
What were the chances that we were related?
My grandmother left Lettermullen in the mid-1920s.
I was hesitant about calling the post office where my grandmother grew up.
What if they rejected me?
It was easier for me to go through an intermediary; but, how would I find one?
I did a general search on Google and found the Lettermullen & Garumna Heritage Centre -www.ionadoidhreachta.com/index_en.html.
I contacted them via email providing them with the little bit of background information I had.
A few days later, I heard back from the center’s administrator, Kathleen.
She asked if my grandmother’s name was Bridget.
Yes, her name was Bridget.
Kathleen contacted the post office confirming my grandmother’s name.
She emailed me back within minutes.
I had found my family!!!!
I provided her with my email address and phone number.
In a very short time, I was talking to my cousins in Ireland.
For 47 years, I did not know any of my Irish family and/or roots.
I went from having a very small family to having dozens of cousins.
Some of us are now Facebook friends.
My cousins are all over Ireland, in England, and in the United States. There are some that we are still trying to find.
How silly I was to worry about not being accepted.
I have never felt more welcomed and loved by family who I know for such a very short time.
God was holding me in the palm of his hand until the very day I met my Irish family – a true blessing.
We talk about having a family reunion. I pray that it is sooner rather than later.
My advice to you who are trying to find family – don’t lose hope.
Your blessing may be just around the corner.
I hold my family very near and dear in my heart always sending them all my love and a multitude of hugs.
With that, I wish you all a very Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
“Lá fhéile Pádraig shona dhuit!”