St. Louis - Celtic Cross Monument

Midwest Irish Focus - Volume I, Issue 8, August 2004

By Diane Shaw
(Copyright © 2004, Midwest Irish Focus)

Did you know that St. Louis is one of only four American cities to have an Honorary Irish Consul?

The man who carries this title is Joe McGlynn. The first generation in Joe's family to leave Ireland for the United States were his grandparents.

Joe's grandmother, Jane Reynolds, was born in a town called Drumsna, which is in Country Leitrim. Her father, John Reynolds rented a one-quarter acre piece of ground and grew hay there, paying rent to the British landowner and making four pounds per year. When Jane Reynolds met Dan McGlynn, Dan got a package deal. Jane and Dan married and Dan brought the whole Reynolds clan to East St. Louis, including Jane's Mom and Dad and 10 siblings.

Joe McGlynn was born to Joseph B. McGlynn and Metta O'Brien in 1933. He is one of seven children. He spent his very early years in Belleville, Illinois. After his father's death, Joe's mother moved the family to St. Louis. McGlynn attended St. Louis University High School, the University of Notre Dame and after graduation, went to St. Louis University Law School to get his law degree.

He is now senior partner in the law firm of McGlynn and Luther. Joe and his wife, Helen, have five children -- Joe, Maureen, Matthew, Michael, and Meghan. Every member of McGlynn's family is an Irish citizen via dual citizenship in both the Republic of Ireland and the United States.

Growing up in St. Louis, McGlynn was always aware of his Irish heritage. He said his father's Irish background was always a strong influence in his life. Due to this pride in his Irish-American heritage, he wanted to do something to help Irish-Americans in St. Louis to be more visible -- to give them a means to express their positive ethnicity and contributions to the City of St. Louis.

One of his proudest achievements is that he founded the St. Louis St. Patrick's Day Parade in 1970 and continues to be active in it today. In his quest to encourage the Irish government to take notice of St. Louis and participate in events there, mcGlynn and his wife have entertained a number of members of the Irish Parliament.

In 1977, McGlynn's efforts were acknowledged when he was appointed Honorary Irish Consul by Jack Lynch, who was the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of Ireland at that time. Since this title is so rarely bestowed, McGlynn is honored to have achieved it.

For the past 20 years, Joe McGlynn's dream has been to build a monument in St. Louis to memorialize the contributions of the Irish in the City.

At first , he did not get a lot of support from the City of St. Louis because some officials felt that a memorial to the Irish might give the impression of exclusion of the ethnicities of other St. Louis residents.

But McGlynn did not give up. He formed a team of interested St. Louisians and continued to propose the idea to just about anyone who would listen. Then he met Rev. John Johnson, who was at that time the pastor of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist Parish located at 15 Plaza Square at 15th and Locust, in the City of St. Louis.

Rev. Johnson was very enthusiastic about the monument, pointing out that his parish was founded in 1847 by the Rev. John Bannon, the courageous and beloved Irish chaplain who ministered to soldiers during battle in the Civil War. He told McGlynn that St. John's was one of the oldest Irish parishes in St. Louis.

McGlynn asked to see the parish sacramental records and found many familiar Irish surnames in them. He then met with the Parish Council to propose the idea and they agreed to have the monument placed in the square in front of the historic church.

Today, Monsignor Dennis Delaney is the pastor of St. John the Apostle and Evangelist Church and is a member of the team McGlynn assembled to achieve the building of the Celtic Cross Irish Memorial.

The 16 and 1/2-foot granite Celtic cross will be built by John W. Scott of the High Cross Monument Company and features a Celtic ring behind and joining the convergence of the vertical and horizontal arms of the cross. The middle of the cross will feature a "ring within the ring" that dominates the design.

The cross is mounted on a broad base that "telescopes" to different levels. The top of the cross is a "roof-like" capstone. The cross design is a classic one, which combines the "Celtic knot" with inlaid Celtic crosses and rings. It looks much like many seen in cemeteries all over Ireland -- only bigger!

The best part of the monument is that it is not a "nameless" granite memorial. While St. Louis businesses have expressed an interest in underwriting the memorial, the founders felt that the Celtic Cross Monument would mean much more if it were funded by contributions made primarily by citizens of every ethnicity who wish to memorialize the Irish in St. Louis.

In that spirit, the monument will carry inscriptions submitted by donors. In this way, a donor can memorialize a family member or a family name by having it inscribed on the cross.

Anyone can donate any amount of money to the creation of the cross, but those who donate $350 or more can have an inscription of their choice placed on the cross. Donors are limited to one line of text on an engraved panel. Each line can contain up to 30 characters that are approximately three-quarters of an inch high. Spaces and punctuation are included in the character count. There will be 28 names on each panel.

Joe McGlynn is proud of the fact that enough contributions have been made to begin construction of the cross in the very near future. Currently, St. John the Apostle and Evangelist Parish is making some needed repairs to the bell towers of the church. When the repairs are completed, the erection of the Celtic Cross Monument will begin.

McGlynn hopes that will be some time in mid-October 2004. He emphasizes that more contributions are needed to finish the monument and provide for perpetual care of it.

There is room for about 100 more names on the monument.

The Celtic Cross Monument was installed and dedicated on March 13, 2005. Sponsorship opportunities remain; if you would like to have your family name engraved on a granite panel, see the contribution page.