Kerry church gets €100,000 donation in 'incredible' gesture

Wednesday 10 April 2013 23.00
St John's occupies a medieval site and is much loved in Tralee
St John's occupies a medieval site and is much loved in Tralee

A 19th Century church in Tralee has been gifted €100,000 by a woman resident in Hong Kong, in what has been described as an "incredible" gesture.

Priests at the Church of St John the Baptist on Castle Street said the woman is not a Catholic and wishes to remain anonymous.

They believe she was visiting a sick relative in hospital in Tralee in 2011 when she became enamoured with the church.

St John's, which underwent a modernisation programme in the 1990s, occupies a medieval site and is much loved in Tralee.

It is renowned for its stained glass and art work.

The Great Sanctuary window by Michael O'Connor (1801-1867) is considered among the finest stained glass work in western Europe.

The church also features stations of the cross paintings by Sean Keating and a fine organ restored to its original splendour. It has Italian marble angels, which were installed in 1918.

Parish Priest Fr Sean Hanafin said he has never met the donor, but he has spoken to her by phone.

At first, Fr Hanafin admitted, he doubted the offer was genuine. He even refused to take a phone call on the matter after being told a woman left a message to say she intended to make the donation.

"It's incredible ... Even when the cheque arrived I wondered was it genuine," he said. The donation, which was made last year, did indeed prove real.

"She was taken up with the church and connected with God through the angels at the entrance. She was drawn into prayer," Fr Hanafin said.

The donation is for the church building itself, and the parish is deciding what to do with the funds.

Most of the money is likely to contribute to ongoing upkeep at the church, given falling attendances and the recession.