Irish-American Couple Honors Anniversary and Heritage at Ireland: The Gathering

For one New York couple, a trip to Ireland began as an exciting opportunity to reconnect with their roots—and it ended with a fairytale vow renewal in a quaint Irish village.

Debbie and Francis “Mac” McFadden took a week to explore Ireland, and they only glimpsed a taste of the country’s offerings. As part of the ongoing extravaganza called “The Gathering: Ireland 2013,” the McFaddens joined a flood of Irish-Americans who were “returning home.”

In proper Irish style, the husband and wife—along with some family and 78 other members of the East Islip, Long Island, division of the Ancient Order of Hibernians Our Lady of Knock, a fraternal organization that helps new Irish immigrants adjust—devoured rich history and breathtaking land and cityscapes. Between the hustle and bustle of Dublin and the scenic countryside overflowing with Ireland’s medieval landmarks, the group was both awed and humbled.

The evening spent at a banquet in the 15th century Bunratty Castle, complete with singing lords and ladies, started to tip the scales. But it was the fourth day that really took the trip miles past the extraordinary mark.

According to 57-year-old Mac, who works for a local school district, it felt like home, “It really did feel like we were home. Everyone we met, from the CIE Tours International guides to the Irish people, made us feel like we were family.”

On the fourth day at the Knock Shrine in the County Mayo village of Knock—world-renowned as the site where the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph and John the Baptist are said to have appeared on Aug. 21, 1879—the McFaddens said “I do” for the second time, reaffirming marriage vows they first made on Long Island 30 years ago.

“It was an anniversary we’ll never forget,” says Debbie, a 52-year-old nurse. “And both our parents and our daughter were there for it.”

In Ireland, The Gathering is commonly considered “the people’s party,” where even locals are intent on helping the huge Irish diaspora in the U.S. experience real Emerald Isle culture. There are tons of big events still to come this year, including: Bloomsday in Bruff, a celebration of all things James Joyce; the Dublin Bay Prawn Festival; National Heritage Week; the Tramore Horseracing Festival; and the Cats Laughs Comedy Festival.

If You Go: The tried and true CIE Tours International has helped millions of Americans visit Ireland over the past 81 years and offers fully inclusive vacations, like the motorcoach tour booked by the McFadden group. To learn more, call CIE at 1-800-243-8687 or visit www.cietours.com/gathering.

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