By Cathy Harasta
The Texas Catholic
Bishop Kevin J. Farrell reflects on President John F. Kennedy, the first Catholic U.S. president, and what his election meant to Ireland, the bishop’s homeland, and to the world.
Q: How did your parents and their generation perceive President Kennedy and the world context during his administration?
A: It wasn’t only the young people who were enthused about having this young man as a president. He was a young man who had fought in the Second World War. We went through the Korean War.
In Ireland, there was a lot of unrest.
President Kennedy always appeared like a person who gave us life and new hope, not just the younger generation, but also my parents. My father thought this was just wonderful. He was a nationalist; everything that was Ireland and Irish was the best in the world, of course!
But my mother was a very devout, religious kind of person. On the wall of every kitchen in Ireland, you had the picture of the Sacred Heart. In the kitchen in our house, on one side of the old, traditional Sacred Heart picture with this little, old electrical lamp burning in front of it, was a picture of Pope John XXIII and on the other side was John Kennedy.
That, to me, always summed up the love that the Irish people had for him.
Here was my mother, who just was a very simple person who didn’t understand too much about world politics, but they had this great admiration and this great sense of hope that, for once, the world was going to be better and going to be different.
Those three images, including John Kennedy’s wrinkled-up old photograph, were still there when my mother died 30 years later.
That just explains the love that people had for Kennedy.
It was such a tremendous shock to us when he died.