An Irish American firefighter has eased the worries of millions of church  goers around the world by inventing an automatic holy water dispenser that eliminates the possibility of catching germs while blessing oneself with the water at church.

John Hartel, from Queens, has created an automatic holy water dispenser in the shape of a cross that provides one milliliter of water per person, allowing each cross to serve up to 350 parishioners.

The design of the dispenser has an infrared light that reads the presence of a hand underneath, and squirts holy water onto the person's fingers.

Hartel, a 13-year veteran of the Fire Department of New York, works out of Glen Oaks, Queens. It was during some downtime at the fire station 10 years ago that the idea to create an automatic holy water dispenser sprung to his Irish mind.

“The idea came from an innocent conversation at the kitchen table in the firehouse with another firefighter over a cup of coffee,” Hartel, 43, tells the Irish Voice.

“He told me that he does not shake people's hands during the sign of peace.”

When Hartel, married with two children, quizzed his firefighter brother further he also admitted he didn’t dip his fingers into the holy water font for fear other people “with filthy fingers and God knows what else who are also sticking their fingers in there.”

This conversation resonated with Hartel over the years and finally he came up with a solution -- create an automatic holy water dispenser so churchgoers could avoid catching other people’s germs.

Hartel met with a patent lawyer but was still unsure, so he shelved the idea for some more years.

“About two or three years ago the panic of germs or viruses or diseases started to grow worldwide, so I revisited the patent lawyer and started the process all by myself with the full support of my wife Helen,” he said.

After many failures and more trial and error, Hartel finally produced a product he is proud of.

“I now firmly believe that I really have the perfect product,” he says.

Hartel said he has been inundated with nothing but good wishes and people hoping to try the product out for themselves.
Hartel, whose grandmother is from Castlerea, Co. Roscommon, credits her for where he is today.

“She made the gut wrenching decision to leave her family and come to America in 1917 so none of this would be possible without her,” said Hartel.

Wanting to keep his Irish grandmother’s spirit alive through his new venture, Hartel named his company JMH Castlerea after his grandmother’s place of birth.

Hartel hasn’t been to Ireland since 1987, but hopes his new venture will see him doing a lot of trans-Atlantic flying.

“Funny actually, cause the last time I was in Ireland I actually worked as a baggage handler for Aer Lingus out of JFK,” he said looking back.

Although it’s in the early stages, Hartel has held meetings with distributors in North Carolina, Rhode Island and Queens.

 “The distributor in Providence, Rhode Island is extremely interested and we may make a deal for him to be our main artery to other distributors/stores throughout the country,” he said.

Because it’s still the early stages, Hartel has not yet approached the Catholic Church with his product, but he is expecting them to be very interested in it.

 “I have not approached the offices of the church as of yet, but I have spoken and shown the dispenser to a few priests who have advised me of some changes, and these changes have been made during the production phase,” he said.

Not only is Hartel anticipating Catholic Churches around the globe showing interest in his product, he also feels that Catholic schools and hospital chapels will follow suit.

People with holy water fonts in their homes have already made requests about purchasing a home version so they too can stay germ free.

“Once this takes off here, I am hoping to then go international and Ireland will be my first destination,” he said.

At the moment the product is used electrically, requiring Hartel to change the electrical make up so the product suited to other countries worldwide.

To place an order or to learn more about the product log onto