Stephanie Lennon is the 2011 Philadelphia Mary from Dungloe. When she read on donegaldaily.com of the possibility of this year’s festival being cancelled, she wanted to show her support. In this special article written for donegaldaily.com, she speaks from the heart about her proud Donegal roots – and why this year’s festival must go ahead….
Irish Roots That Reach from Philadelphia to Donegal – By Stephanie Lennon
I was a contestant in the 2011 Philadelphia Mary from Dungloe contest, hosted by the Philadelphia Donegal Association at the Irish Center in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Donegal Association, which is Beneficial, Social, Charitable, Patriotic and Cultural Organization founded in Philadelphia in 1888 with roots tracing back to County Donegal, announced my name as the winner of the 2011 Philadelphia Mary from Dungloe Pageant.
As the crown was placed on my head and I was serenaded to the tune of Mary from Dungloe, I couldn’t help but think that my paternal grandmother, Mary Cannon Lennon born in Newtowncunningham, Donegal, was surely looking down on me from heaven.
As having dual citizenship, I have made the trek across the Atlantic to visit my family, who still resides in and around Newtowncunningham, Donegal. I can recall vivid memories of my experiences in Ireland and I consider myself blessed to have had them. I have fond memories of sitting in the old farmhouse that my grandmother grew up in before immigrating to Philadelphia. I have shared a pot of tea with my grandmother’s sister, my great Aunt Polly Devenney, who always welcomes me as one of her own grandchildren.
With this economy limiting travel, us Philadelphia Lennon’s haven’t seen much of our Irish relatives in the past few years. It saddened me that I was unable to attend the wedding of my dear cousin Brian to his now misses, Grace, who were the first of the three Burke boys married within a six month period. My sadness washes away as I think about the honor of competing in the 44th Annual Mary from Dungloe Contest this summer. I am elated since not only will I partake in the experience of a lifetime as the 2011 Philadelphia Mary, but I will also be extending my stay to have good craic with my family in Letterkenny and Newtowncunningham.
Like I said, I am honored to represent the city of Philadelphia in the 44th Annual Mary festival, but I also feel that I am a worthy ambassador. I received my Master’s degree in Speech-Language-Hearing Science from LaSalle University and my Bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University. I am a nationally-certified and Pennsylvania licensed Speech-Language Pathologist and I work as a speech-language pathologist in an elementary school with children with special needs such as Autism, ADHD, hearing impairment and other learning disabilities. I strive to be a positive role model for today’s youth. I actively give back to my local community by coaching girls CYO Softball for the last four years and volunteering as a P.R.E.P. teacher for the last six years, both at my Roman Catholic parish of St. Cecilia in the Fox Chase section of Northeast Philadelphia.
I am looking forward to making the trip across the pond for the International pageant. My family and friends will accompany me to Dungloe, where we will meet up with my father’s family who still resides in Donegal. I am most excited to participate in this historic festival that I feel embodies all things Irish. I find that Ireland is a country based on customs, traditions, and good craic, and this festival highlights that and provides a positive image for Dungloe and the county of Donegal.
Having heard only great things from former Philadelphia Mary’s and my family from Donegal, I am filled with excitement as the days grow closer to my departure for Ireland.