Historic Manhattan church reopens following mystery multi-million dollar donation

An historic New York church built by survivors of the Irish potato famine is to reopen this weekend – following a massive campaign by its Irish American congregation.

The once crumbling St Brigid Church, which provided a haven in the 19th century for Irish immigrants following the famine, was due to be closed down until a mystery benefactor came forward with a $20 million donation.

Campaigners including Irish writer Malachy McCourt and Irish American actor Matt Dillon had fought a desperate battle to save the church from demolition.

Now workers are putting the finishing touches on the newly renovated building which will reopen tomorrow (Sunday).

“Thank God appeared somebody to donate the money, and there was joy for everybody,” said Rev. Lorenz Ato, administrator of St. Brigid’s.

In 2001, the New York Archdiocese closed the church, situated in Manhattan’s East Village, because it was declared structurally unstable. They planned to knock it down entirely because they said it was too costly to repair.

But the multi-million dollar donation stopped all that and funded a major renovation project that solidified the foundation and a crumbling back wall, replaced the glass windows and created 600 seats for parishioners.

“We were able to maintain the look with new construction techniques, so it can give the effect of what was here 140 years ago, and you have that today,” said contractor Christian Fitzgerald.

“It’s a church, it’s a religious institution, but just like in a town square in Europe, there was an edge of civic pride,” added architect Michael Doyle.

Ed Torres, leader of the Committee to Save Saint Brigid’s says he is thrilled about the result of the renovations.

“This really allows you to appreciate what you almost lost, because we were almost there,” Torres said. “So that much more excitement, that much more enthusiasm.”

Cardinal Dolan will lead the first mass at the newly reopened building on Sunday afternoon at 5 p.m.


13 Responses to “Historic Manhattan church reopens following mystery multi-million dollar donation”

  1. 1 Mark Frances January 28, 2013 at 7:01 pm

    I hae been to New York for the last five St. Paddy’s Day Parades from the Midwest. My Irish grandmother with a third grade education took me to New York when I was 14. I served on board the host ship for the 1976 International Naval Review on the Hudson. I salute both Edwin Torres and Matt Dillon for their efforts to save the parish of the secondary patron saint of the Green Isle just behind the great St. P himself. Semper Fi.

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