Irish Catholics who came to the United States were entering another heavily Protestant country; in fact, Ireland was and is the only English-speaking Catholic nation in the world. But they were entering a nation that gave them far more opportunity, dirt-poor as they were, to succeed and better themselves and their families. Because as bad as it might have been to be Irish in the United States at the time, the United States still respected hard work. Ultimately, it didn’t matter your origins, as long as you pulled your weight. Factories, docks, and early police forces — jobs few others wanted — were all heavily dominated by Irish immigrants, and that in turn shaped the United States as a whole.
And most importantly, the second reason. They left a country where a priest could be shot on sight to live in a place where they could worship openly. They could go so far as to have great parades in the street, and even if some would get upset, no one tried shooting them.
Can you imagine how different that must have felt?
And that’s why Saint Pat’s was often the second largest party– with Independence Day as the bigger.