(Editor’s note: Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ, retired president of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, gave the following remarks during the “Gathering of the Clan Luncheon” of the St. Patrick Day Society of the Quad Cities on March 11. The society chose her to serve as grand marshal of the Grand Parade XXXVI on March 12.)
… It is with great humility that I have agreed to accept the honor of serving as the Grand Marshal of tomorrow’s parade. Frankly, I must confess I was stunned to have been considered for this position, and I thank the St. Patrick Society of the Quad Cities for this honor.
However, full disclosure: I haven’t exactly earned this position by heritage since I cannot claim one drop of Irish blood. And my first reaction to being named was, “oh, dear.” But then I reflected on the wonderful and deep ways in which we are all connected, and that made me happy and wanting to share them briefly with you.
Here goes: My grandfathers and grandmothers came from two countries: Poland and Italy — relatively small countries with rich histories. Like many of your early relatives, my people came to this country in search of a better life. They came with determination, hope and a deep, abiding faith. They brought their willingness to work hard and their desire to make a better life for themselves and, more importantly, for their children.
Life in this new country was often difficult but our collective forebearers, yours and mine, also brought treasured gifts: music, dance, food and drink, family gatherings, the ability to celebrate and cherished memories of the lands they had left behind.
And these gifts and these memories are what we celebrate today, tomorrow and whenever we gather. We have our favorite foods and drinks (I’m a beer lover myself, so maybe that can give me some ‘Irish credentials’) and we bring together the old world and this new world which we call home. I’d love to know how many of you have journeyed back to the old country — whether literally or in dreams — which still claims you and blesses you. It is home in a special way. I myself have had the joy of visiting Ireland many times, often taking students, all of whom come away with happy memories of a beautiful land and gracious, warm people.
These memories are what link us in a deep way and are the reason I feel so comfortable, so totally at home on this very special day. We know we are children of the same God, brothers and sisters in God’s love, and I am happy and delighted to join you today.
And so, from the land of Ireland, the land of saints and scholars, I leave you with this piece of beauty and hope for our world from the Irish Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney: “Hope is not optimism, which expects things to turn out well, but something rooted in the conviction that there is good worth working for.” Let’s do it together.