History of Denver, Colorado’s LAOH Division #1
The inception of the Denver, Colorado LAOH Division #1 resulted from Charter President Louise Donovan’s accompanying her husband in the AOH Booth at the Colorado Irish Festival, staged each July by the Colorado United Irish Societies (CUIS). The AOH wives began inquiring about a Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians Division, driving Louise to investigate requirements with the National LAOH, while inviting every Irish Catholic woman she knew in Denver to consider joining. An informational meeting was held in late 1999, and in January, 2000, Mary Paglione came to Denver to install the Denver LAOH Division #1 with 22 members.
The AOH lent the nascent LAOH $100 to start our Division, and assisted in sourcing a meeting location for us. The Installation of the LAOH in Denver was celebrated by LAOH and AOH members and their families with a celebratory dinner. Louise served as Division President for 2 consecutive 2-year terms, until the Division was well-established and running smoothly. Since Louise’s tenure, 8 sisters have served as President. We meet monthly at the Knights of Columbus Hall downtown, with members traveling from a 40 mile radius to gather.
The Division chose Sacred Heart Church, downtown Denver, as the Parish where we celebrate the Feast Days of St. Brigid and Our Lady of Knock. It is the oldest, continuously operating Roman Catholic Church in Denver. Although its congregation was originally predominantly Irish, the neighborhood demographics have changed considerably over the years. Today, it is an economically disadvantaged Parish that the Denver LAOH Division has adopted.
In February, we pray the St. Brigid Novena at Sacred Heart after Mass 2 consecutive Sundays, concluding with fellowship over lunch afterwards. In March, our Division walks in the largest St. Patrick’s Day Parade west of the Mississippi through downtown Denver. The route is approximately 2 miles of nothing but fun! In July, we host a booth at the Colorado Irish Festival’s Cultural Village; this is our primary recruiting event for new members each year. The weekend is filled with Irish music, Irish food, much laughter and great camaraderie. In August, following Mass celebrating our Lady of Knock, LAOH sisters serve juice and donuts to Sacred Heart parishoners before we venture off to our Annual Louise Donovan Hibernian Family Picnic, so named in 2019, joined by our AOH brothers and everyone’s families.
Sacred Heart receives monthly monetary donations from LAOH, in addition to which we furnish a couple dozen frozen turkeys to needy families at Thanksgiving. The most fun charitable act we perform for Sacred Heart is purchasing Christmas gifts for children and moms of needy families. Our December meeting is always a festive, joyous affair as we wrap gifts for our Sacred Heart families. We also donate food and clothing, as needed. In addition to Sacred Heart, we make a separate monthly donation to a rotating charity. Many are local Denver organizations, mostly Catholic, providing assistance and shelter to children, women and the needy. Some of our charity recipients are national organizations such as the Columban Sisters and Brothers.
The Denver LAOH hosts bi-annual Trivia Contest fundraisers which are both well-attended and well-enjoyed by the Denver Irish Community. While our Trivia location has varied over the years, we always find an Irish Public House to host us. One of our sisters or their family member serves as Emcee, and our questions always include some Irish Trivia, and a variety of questions, to give all age groups in attendance a sense of confidence. Our fellow Irish organizations – AOH, Colorado Emerald Society, CUIS and the Denver St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee – all promote us heartily because of our excellent raffle prizes.
Today, we boast 42 members, some of whom may only be in Denver once a year, but, as their home state has no LAOH, they join us when they are in Denver. As of September 2021 we have several new applicants who are waiting to be sworn in at our next meeting. The Denver LAOH is a very lovely and vibrant group of sisters who support one another through all of life’s ups and downs, with great laughter, love and fellowship throughout each year. ***We are excited to note that we have added five new members to our division as of December 2021.