Church Saved from Destruction

ST.; Brigid's Famine era church, located in the East Village of Manhattan and built by Irish immigrants in the mid-1800s, has been saved from the wrecking ball by an anonymous $20 million donation.Newspaper suggestions that the donor was Chuck Feeney, the reclusive Irish American billionaire who is giving his fortune away, have been ruled out by those close to Feeney.St. Brigid's Church, which overlooks Tompkins Square Park and was built in 1848, has been under the threat of the wrecking ball since its closure in 2004. However, the Save St. Brigid's Committee, led by chairman Ed Torres, has been lobbying tirelessly and fought stringent court battles to prevent the church from being demolished.On Wednesday, May 21, the Archdiocese of New York announced that a donor had come forward with $20 million to save the church from demolition after a private meeting was held with Cardinal Edward Egan at his residence. Some $10 million of the money will go towards restoring the structure, allowing it to serve as a parish church once again, the ultimate aim of the committee since its closure. Another $2 million will help establish an endowment for the parish so that it might best meet the "religious and spiritual" needs of the people living in the community. The donor also contributed an additional $8 million to support St. Brigid's School - which Pope John Paul II visited in 1995 during a pastoral visit to the U.S. - and other Catholic schools in need of financial assistance.Torres told the Irish Voice on Tuesday that he jumped for joy when he first heard about the "miraculous" donation. "So many people care for the church and this is truly a miracle. God does answer prayers and so many people had been praying for us," said Torres, who was a parishioner of the Famine church for 25 years before it closed down in 2004.Cardinal Egan expressed his deep gratitude for the extraordinary generosity of the donor. In a statement he said, "This magnificent gift will make it possible for St. Brigid's Church to be fittingly restored with its significant structural problems properly addressed. "The two additional gifts, to create an endowment for the parish and to support the parish school, are a powerful testament to the donor's goodness and understanding. He has my heartfelt gratitude, as I recently told him at a meeting in my residence."St. Brigid's main building was originally closed by the Archdiocese in 2001, citing structural problems. It's last Mass was held in the school next door in 2004.The church, which was built by off-the-boat Irish immigrants during the Famine era, had been earmarked for demolition since July 2006 when the Archdiocese sent in a wrecking crew with the intention of tearing down it down so they could sell the property. It was only when local residents got involved that a clause was discovered for unsafe working conditions stopping the demolition in its tracks, but not before smashing the sacred stained glass windows bearing the names of several Irish immigrants."It will take I guess about one to two years to restore the church back to is original splendor," said Torres.

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