Father Jack Wall with Mike Flannery, FOX 32 Political Editor (left) and John Gorski, President of the Irish American Heritage Center (right).
The 2013 iBAM! festival honored Father Jack Wall as iBAM Person of the Year, which is presented each year to someone someone who helps his fellow man and goes beyond the ordinary, attempting the extraordinary.
Our intention with honoring Fr. Wall stemmed from the time we spent with him doing the cover story earlier this year. We were inspired by the work he is doing with Catholic Extension. Fr. Wall is a significant person in the Irish community in Chicago. His efforts to restore and bring Old St. Pat's Church back to prominence is a critical part of the story of the Irish in Chicago and how we celebrate our heritage which includes the story of our immigrant past and our religion. His role at Catholic Extension can be seen as a continuation of the great history of Irish missionaries in this country.
The theme for this year is Celtic Arts Rising but the overarching theme for iBAM is always about celebrating our Irish Heritage through the people who go beyond the stereotypes - those who have impact beyond just the Irish community. For example, Justice Burke's role with the Special Olympics is what helped to define her as extraordinary. Similarly, Fr. Wall's role in the Church and the Irish community's relationship with its Church is part of our rationale for choosing him.
Old St. Pat's is a living masterpiece of the Irish American Architect and artist Thomas O'Shaughnessy. In fact, the Irish American Heritage Center where we host our event, houses some of O'Shaughnessy's stained glass work that were rescued from another church he designed on the city's old west side. We honored O'Shaughnessy for his outstanding contributions in Visual Arts in 2010.
In addition, the story of the Irish in America is irrevocably tied to the Church, the Irish priests and nuns, the schools, and the communities that the Irish immigrants built in our cities around their faith and Church. Old St. Pat's is perhaps one of the greatest examples of those efforts. Fr. Wall represents the best in the Catholic Church and the story of Irish American priests. His role with Catholic Extension takes that story to the next level - the Irish continuing to build the faith in America and continuing to serve those who need it the most. It is the stories of today's immigrants and the poor who believe they are more than their circumstances (just like the Irish did 50-100 years ago). We feel that is a story that needs to be told and celebrated.