Father Bill Quinlivan, pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Tonawanda, has been named Irishman of the Year by the Knights of Equity, a national Irish Catholic organization.
A board of previous Knights of Equity who have received this honor chooses the Irishman of the Year. The honoree must be Catholic and of Irish descent, and outstanding in the Irish community, serving in various ways.
"He is being honored for his spiritual leadership, his gift of music ministry and, of course, his remarkable Irish humor," said MaryAnn Riedy, past national president of the Daughters of Erin, the women's equivalent to the knights.
"That's the thing that's kind of humbling, that despite the fact that they know me, they're giving me something," Father Quinlivan said, displaying some of that Irish humor. "This represents the roots and the neighborhood and the ethnic and the faith, all coming together, so that makes it special."
Father Quinlivan, a South Buffalo native who attended Bishop Timon High School, has served as national chaplain of the Knights of Equity and Daughters of Erin for nine years. He has presided over the annual Memorial Mass, the Feast of Our Lady of Knock Mass and officiated at Mass at the national conventions.
"My sister Mary is a member of the Daughters of Erin. I guess that's how I got involved," he said, adding that MaryAnn Riedy was their neighbor while growing up.
Father Quinlivan has taken pride in his 100 percent Irish roots. He has visited Ireland several times and even dedicated his first recorded CD, "Paintbrush in the Green," which contains the songs "Silent Mother/Our Lady of Knock" and "Irish Blessing," to the old country.
"My experience of being Irish was always a hyphenated Irish-Catholic, because the faith was always integral to my experience of being Irish," he said. "In my travels to Ireland I spent a lot of time in churches and shrines and on retreat. I guess I feel connected through the last two generations of South Buffalo, since my father's parents came from Ireland and my mother's grandparents came. So, it's kind of like being connected to some far off relatives that I didn't know, but had that Irish-Catholic identity."
The Irish Center's Tara Gift Shop has supported Father Quinlivan by carrying his music since he released "Paintbrush in the Green" in 2006.
"They've been very good to me," he said.
The Knights of Equity Buffalo Court 5 was chartered in 1897. The current building at 245 Abbott Road has been used as the Buffalo Irish Center since 1970. Today, it is a cultural center for the WNY Irish community. Over the past years, the Knights of Equity has raised funds for various groups and charities, and maintains special donations to organizations, such as Our Lady of Victory Infant Home, area soup kitchens and the Franciscan Center.
The Daughters of Erin Buffalo Court 5 was formed in 1960. Its aims and objectives are to aid the Knights of Equity financially, socially and to further its aims, principles and causes, to participate in Catholic Action, contribute to charity and foster Americanism.
The Irishman of the Year award will be presented at the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick Dinner to be held on Saturday, March 7, at the Buffalo Irish Center.
For more information contact Charlie McSwain at 677-4497 or Riedy at 675-7046. Meetings are held at 7:30 p.m. on the third Wednesday of each month at the Buffalo Irish Center.