NORWALK - Organizers of Stamford's St. Patrick's Day parade say the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America participated in the festivities Saturday, despite a threat to protest.

The group had threatened to sit out this year because of a recent controversy in the Catholic Church surrounding finances. According to a member of the organization, the Hibernians discussed staging a civil protest during the parade and backing out of their usual spot as leaders of the procession if Stamford state Sen. Andrew McDonald (D) was in attendance.

McDonald stirred up controversy last week by supporting a bill that would create a board of directors to oversee individual parish finances. Critics of the bill, which included thousands of Connecticut residents who rallied against it last week, say the government should not take away the church's control of its finances.

The parade went off without a hitch, despite the threat of protest. Spectators say the financial proposal didn't stop them from displaying their Irish pride. The Hibernians say they felt comfortable marching in the parade once it was confirmed McDonald would not be involved.

If the Hibernians had backed out, it would have been the first parade in 13 years without their participation.