Kansas City Irish Center at Union Station Celebrates Ireland Daily

Director Nancy Wormington and lead teacher Renata Rua.

While St. Patrick’s Day allows the metropolitan community to be Irish for one day, the Kansas City Irish Center at Union Station promotes the language, lace, literature and more…the best of Ireland…throughout the year.

Director Nancy Wormington and lead teacher Renata Rua – the two staff members at the center – encourage the community to visit the center on St. Patrick’s Day after the parade. There will be social dancing and music and if that dancing spurs further interest, the center offers céilí (KAY-lee) dance classes, starting May 7.

In addition to dancing, the center offers genealogy classes and workshops. Rua teaches beginning Irish classes in the spring after the fall introduction classes. However, the center also offers an immersion

Clones Lace Irish Crochet workshop

program March 27-29 with the Fulbright Language Commission of Ireland. Beginners are welcome. The teachers will be Vikki Ní Bhrein, Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant in at Elms College, and Eoin Mc Evoy is a Fulbright Irish Language Tutor at Villanova University.

Lace teacher Máire Treanor and her Clones Lace Irish Crochet workshop will return to Kansas City for a second visit. She will discuss the lace to a public presentation April 23. The workshop is April 24-27.  Clones (pronounced clone-ess) lace was developed in the 1840s in Clones, Co. Monaghan, Ireland and is an exquisite adaptation of Venetian needle point lace.

Ireland has a rich literary past and present, and a monthly book club, often led by Rua, explores Irish literature. Books, Brews and Blarney examines authors who were born in Ireland or who have lived there. Occasionally members read books written by Irish Americans or books set in Ireland by authors of other nationalities. On March 31, the book is to be discussed will be one of contemporary Irish poetry called The Flowering Tree, edited by Declan Kiberd and Gabriel Fitzmaurice. On April 28, focus will be Three Dublin Plays by Sean O’Casey and on May 26, Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville. “It’s a mix of classics and progressive works,” says Rua.

Irish language and literature workshop

During the book club gatherings, the Wee Little Pub, its walls lined with books, is open for business. The pub is also open during the Monday evening craft sessions called Fiber Follies. “The pub is a social gathering place,” Wormington explains. “It is not part of the Irish stereotype, but rather a definition that the pub is a place for the community to come together. It’s a piece we needed and it’s a way of bolstering camaraderie. A pub is part of the social fabric.”

The center also brings in George Vial from Donegal and Major Brands to educate guests on Irish whiskey and occasionally, Scotch. These tastings are scheduled quarterly, Wormington says.

“We are not a museum, but a cultural center,” Wormington notes. “We aim to keep the Irish culture alive. It is a story that is vibrant with great history, but the culture continues to move forward, which is in part, why we offer so many activities. We want to offer depth and breadth and the depth and breadth to which we aspire necessitates the library, the ability to do research and even the literary programs. We promise our participants lots of pleasant opportunities that introduce them to the Irish past and present.

The Irish resource library allows for more reading and research. The library started with a single donation of 3,000 books and has now grown to more than 4,000. While the books cannot be loaned out, researchers are welcome. The oldest text is 1547 and there are several first editions in the collection, Rua says.

“We are so blessed to have this collection,” Wormington says, “and we hope to get some of the resources online. The database would be enormously helpful for researchers. People come here to read and we have many books not found anywhere else in the city.”

The center’s annual gala will be held this year on April 17. There are to be two awards given, the first of which will be the John Jay Sullivan Jr. Award for philanthropy. The second, awarded for the first time, will be the John O’Neal Award, aimed to recognize those who work tirelessly for Irish-related organizations. “It’s a sort of everyman award,” Wormington says.

Kellie Houx

Kellie Houx is a writer and photographer. A graduate of Park University, she has 20 years of experience as a journalist. As a writer, wife and mom, she values education, arts, family and togetherness.

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