Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Irish history, dance on tap at Oakland ‘Sunday in the Park’

Published June 10, 2010

ATLANTA—Come join in a bit of Irish fun at Oakland Cemetery and learn how Father Thomas O’Reilly saved the city during the Civil War.

The Hibernian Benevolent Society of Atlanta, in conjunction with the Historic Oakland Foundation’s 34th annual Sunday in the Park, will celebrate the contributions of Father O’Reilly and his heroic deeds on Sunday, Oct. 6. The Sunday in the Park celebration will be held from 12 to 6 p.m. at Oakland Cemetery, located at 248 Oakland Ave., SE. The cemetery suggests a donation of $5 for admission. The cemetery’s Victorian street festival features many family-oriented activities.

At 2:15 p.m., the Hibernian Benevolent Society will present Irish step dancing, music, food and a wreath-laying ceremony that will include the story of Father O’Reilly, who was pastor of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Atlanta, and how in 1864 he saved the churches of Atlanta as well as City Hall and the Courthouse from the burning of the city by Union forces under Gen. William T. Sherman. The 150th anniversary of Father O’Reilly’s actions will be celebrated in 2014; various activities are planned.

The city of Atlanta in 1873 deeded a cemetery plot in Oakland to the Hibernian Benevolent Society to recognize the contributions made by the Hibernian Rifles and Father O’Reilly during the war. Featured speakers on Oct. 6 include Irish Consul General Paul Gleeson and Msgr. James Fennessy, of St. Jude the Apostle Church, Atlanta. The public will have the opportunity to speak with Society members about Irish activities, the 150th anniversary of Father O’Reilly’s action and membership in the Society. Come learn more about this fascinating part of Atlanta’s Irish Catholic history. For more information, contact Dot Mears, historian of the Hibernian Benevolent Society of Atlanta, at 770-934-5108 or