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Travers Crowned Philadelphia Mary from Dungloe

Mary of Dungloe
Ciara, decked out in crown and sash, is flanked by her proud parents,
Seamus and Marie.


Mary of Dungloe
Mary of Dungloe 2015 and 2016:
Ciara Travers (left) poses with the 2015 Philadelphia Mary of Dungloe, Shannon Alexander of St. Joseph’s University.

Ciara Travers, a nursing major, was named Philadelphia Mary from Dungloe on November 28 at the Philadelphia Donegal Association Ball and Mary Selection.


The Philadelphia Mary from Dungloe contest is an Irish heritage competition for unmarried young women of Irish descent between the ages of 18 and 27. Criteria include strong character, connection to the Irish community and personal accomplishment. As the Philadelphia winner, Travers receives an all-expenses-paid trip to Ireland to compete in the International Mary from Dungloe Festival in County Donegal in the summer of 2016 and a $500 scholarship. She was selected from among 11 contestants.

A resident of Malvern, Travers won the title on the strength of her community service. She is a presidential ambassador and member of the campus ministry team at Neumann. As part of her campus ministry role, she is the service leader for outreach to House of Joseph II in Wilmington, a center that provides long-term housing and essential support services, including nursing care, to homeless men and women in the advanced stages of AIDS. Last year, she was one of six Neumann students who participated in the Ignatian Teach-In for Justice at Washington. D.C. Students spoke with Congressional staff members to advocate for immigration reform and policies to address climate change and poverty.


Travers also volunteers for Amigos de Jesus, a service organization in Honduras. The group provides a home for more than 130 abandoned and neglected children, some as young as three years old. She helps with fundraising for the group here at home and, two summers ago, traveled to Honduras to work with the children.


For the competition, all the finalists were interviewed separately by three judges about the qualities they would bring to the Dungloe festival and their connection to the Irish community. Finally, each had to answer a question on stage in front of the crowd at the association ball, which was held at the Commodore Barry Irish Center.


“I was so shocked when they announced the winner,” admitted Travers. “There were contestants from Temple, LaSalle, Villanova and St. Joe’s.”


Travers, a junior, has Irish roots in County Leitrim through her father and County Donegal through her mother. She’s looking forward to her trip to the 10-day festival in County Donegal in late July and early August. At that international festival, “there will be 15 to 20 contestants from around the world,” she explained. “We will travel around the county and participate in different festival events.”


The Mary from Dungloe Festival is one of Ireland’s biggest, founded in 1967 and named for a young woman, Mary Gallagher, whose sad love story is told in a traditional song, written by Pádraig Mac Cumhaill, a Donegal stonemason, in 1936. A modified version of the song reached the top of the Irish singles music chart in the late 1960s. This success prompted the creation of the festival.

According to legend, the original Mary, a native of Dungloe, was courted by a man from Gweedore (also in Donegal), but her parents refused to let them marry. Her suitor left for America in the fall of 1861, and just two months later, Mary left for New Zealand to join her relatives there. On the boat she met and married another man. The marriage resulted in the birth of a son, but sadly, both Gallagher and her child died within a few months.

The Donegal Association of Philadelphia is a charitable and cultural organization that was founded in 1888 and traces its roots back to County Donegal. There are similar chapters in the United States and other countries. According to the association’s website, the group formed in the late 1800’s to take care of immigrants who were in need of aid and comfort. The vast influx of immigrants during those years prompted the growth of various Irish social societies in the United States.



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