Bellevue Hospital was served by Carmelite
chaplains from Our Lady of the Scapular
' When we speak of Carmelite involvement in the Irish Freedom Movement, we are referring to the Carmelite houses that became in 1931 the New York Province of Saint Elias and mainly to the superiors. In those days, there was an authority structure that was inviolate. Elevation by election or appointment to the position of superior made one newsworthy and quotable. A certain amount of prestige came with the office and this added to the attractiveness and credibility of the superiors as speakers. They, too, were the schedule makers and could make themselves available for speaking engagements.
It is not until the early 1930's that the first native vocations in the province were ordained priests. Generally speaking, the majority of priests came from Ireland until the start of World War II. Besides the Carmelites that were not Irish born, a few of the Irish born were not in support of the Irish Freedom Movement. One such was Edward Southwell, who came from Kildare. He was not supportive probably because the presence of British troops at the Curragh Camp near his home influenced his political persuasion. Another factor may have been the fact that Southwell’s family operated a grocery store in Kildare that surely relied on at least some British patronage.
Subjects had little or no outlet for their opinion or positions on issues. There are hints of disagreement between superiors and subjects on various issues but because of the authority invested in them, the superiors’ positions on Irish issues were taken as the Carmelite positions.
The greatest time of Irish activity in the Carmelite parish of Our Lady of the Scapular at 28th Street and First Avenue was from 1916 to 1924. During this period Denis O’Connor, Gerard O’Farrell, Christopher Slattery, Lawrence D. Flanagan, Hugh Devlin and Dominic Hastings were in the main the Carmelites stationed in the parish and also serving Bellevue Hospital.
Wolf Tone and Daniel O’Connell were the parents of the two strains of Irish nationalism that survived to this period. O’Connell sought to achieve independence through parliamentary procedures, elections and alliances. Tone sought to achieve separation from England by the force of arms. The Carmelites’ nationalism was that of Tone embracing the use of force.
Though many Carmelites were involved in the Irish Freedom Movement, there are some whose importance demands the presentation of some background material.
Gerard William O’Farrell was born in Dublin, April 1, 1885. Educated at the National University when it was a centre of Irish nationalism, he was ordained June 6, 1914. After a year in Dublin, he came to the 28th Street parish in 1915 and specialized in conducting parish missions. On a number of occasions, he expressed his regret at not being able, because of his priestly duties, to contribute more to the cause of Irish freedom. Irish literature was his specialty and he often lectured on Irish literary figures.
O’Farrell carefully studied Padraic Pearse and from a series of lectures on him published An Appreciation of Padraic H. Pearse, first President of the Irish Republic. He dedicated the publication to Peter Elias Magennis with the inscription, “As a token of a life-long esteem and as an appreciation of his untiring efforts in the cause of Ireland, this essay is affectionately dedicated.” O’Farrell also expressed thanks to Liam Mellows for suggestions and the reading of the proofs.
When the Carmelites opened the new parish of St. Simon Stock in the Bronx in 1919, Gerard O’Farrell became the first pastor. In the five years he served in this capacity, he built a church, priory and school. In 1924, he succeeded Denis O’Connor as the major superior, Commissary General, of the five foundations that would become a province in the Carmelite Order in 1931.
In early 1926, Gerard O’Farrell began to experience problems with his kidneys apparently from their cessation of operation due to stones. After postponing any treatment until after the dedication of the St. Simon Stock facilities by Patrick Cardinal Hayes, O’Farrell entered St. Vincent’s Hospital for an operation. After the surgery, he died June 15, 1926 from either septicaemia or the failure of the operation to correct the kidneys’ malfunction. '