PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The countdown is on to the 2011 Saint Patrick’s Day Parade.
This year marks 240 years of Irish tradition here in Philadelphia.
Though the day will be celebrated by the region’s entire Irish community, for Sister James Anne Feerick, a member of the Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, this year’s march comes with a special honor.
CBS 3 Anchor Susan Barnett has the Sister’s story.
Sister James Anne Feerick has been teaching children for 48 years.
Her young students at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Educational Center in Bryn Mawr receive one-on-one attention from Sister James Anne and the nuns of the Saint Aloysius Convent.
Sister James Anne Feerick begins each lesson with a prayer alongside each student.
“When you look at them, their eyes are just filled with wonder and beauty, and you just want to keep that there,” says Sister James Anne.
Her dedication to children and her service to the Irish community is the reason Sister James Anne has been named this year’s St. Pat’s parade Grand Marshal.
Her students are very proud of Sister.
“That’s really cool,” said student Justin Patton.
The good news came in a phone call from parade director Mike Bradley.
“He said, ‘are you sitting down?’ and I said, ‘yes I am,’ in fact I’m still saying I can’t believe this is happening,” said Sister James Anne. “I’m just really humbled, I never expected it.”
Back in 2008, Sister James Anne was first honored when she was chosen to march in the Ring of Honor.
“The Saint Pat’s Observance Association has kept this parade alive over all these years,” she said. “It’s a beautiful parade because I remember it as a child.”
Anne Feerick grew up in West Philly’s Transfiguration Parish, where she learned Irish dancing. Each class cost 50 cents.
“My father and mother instilled in us the love of the Irish culture, and we always listened to Irish music on Sunday afternoons,” says Sister James Anne.
She danced in competitions throughout her childhood, and later taught Irish dance to young students.
The Sister even gave us a treat and kicked up her heels when we met her.
This year’s parade theme is Saint Patrick Bless Our Religious Sisters Who Serve, Inspire And Educate.
Sister James Anne says she’ll be marching for all the religious women.
And she’s started a novena, praying for a little sunshine and not too much wind on Sunday’s parade day.
You can watch the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade live on our sister station, the CW Philly, beginning at noon.
Watch this video…
Reported by Susan Barnett, CBS 3