By Ray O’Hanlon
It’s official, Cardinal Edward Egan will lead the 241st New York St. Patrick’s Day Parade up Fifth Avenue on March 16.
Egan, whose Irish family roots are in Mayo, will be installed as the grand marshal at a ceremony in Manhattan later this month. During the ceremony, he will receive his sash of office from the 2001 grand marshal, labor leader Ed Malloy.
The choice of Egan has surprised many parade observers. Egan’s predecessor as archbishop of New York, the late Cardinal John O’Connor, was in office for well over a decade before being named grand marshal in 1995.
“The cardinal was himself surprised because he is still a relative newcomer,” said Joe Zwilling, spokesman for the Catholic Archdiocese of New York.
“But when the parade committee told him that this year’s parade would be a tribute to the fallen heroes of Sept. 11, the cardinal said that he was delighted to accept if by doing so he would help honor those heroes.”
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The parade, which will be held on a Saturday because St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Sunday this year, will take place only a few days after the six-month anniversary of the attack on America.
And already there are indications that the parade could turn into an enormous street tribute to the fallen, not least the city’s uniformed emergency services.
The parade attracts huge numbers of marching police and firefighters from the city and tri-state area every year and those already packed ranks of blue could be dramatically swelled this year with firefighters, police and other emergency workers from around the country seeing the parade as an opportunity to express their solidarity with their bereaved New York City comrades.
Egan, meanwhile, can expect a particularly busy day if the experience of Cardinal O’Connor in 1995 is anything to go by. On that day, O’Connor said the pre-parade Mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, led the parade up Fifth Avenue at a near record clip, and then returned to the steps of the cathedral to greet the tens of thousands of people marching in his footsteps.