Shrine raises $250K for repairs

By KERRY MINOR

The Leader-Herald

AURIESVILLE – The Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs has raised nearly $250,000 in its $1 million building fund drive, eliminating the threat of having to close the shrine, the fund drive’s organizer said.

“The outpouring of love is something I have never seen in my life,” fund drive organizer Joey Caruso said.

“The outpouring has just been continuous,” he said. “You just can’t stop it.”

The shrine is trying to raise $1 million to pay for urgent repairs. The fundraising campaign began seven weeks ago.

The amount of money raised so far means the shrine will stay open, Caruso said. Previously, Caruso and the shrine’s director said the shrine was in danger of closing.

“It will not close with the outpouring we have seen,” Caruso said.

Caruso, who runs Caruso’s Broadcasting Co., said a doctor from Manhattan recently gave the shrine $15,000 worth of stocks.

He said another woman from Ohio recently gave $10,000 a few weeks after she donated $5,000 to the fund drive.

Donations have been made from people of a variety of faiths and have come from international donors as well, he said.

The shrine needs to replace tier roofs and windows in the main coliseum at the shrine. It also needs to straighten a 2-ton steel cross of Jesus that is tilting on the coliseum’s main roof.

The roof, windows and cross are expected to cost $500,000, while the interior and exterior painting of the coliseum will cost about $50,000.

Caruso said he hopes the roof can be completed before the winter.

“I have no doubt that if we continue this pace [of donations], we’ll make it,” Caruso said of the roof.

Other repairs needed include the water system, which would cost about $300,000. Caruso said work on the system may begin in the winter.

Other repairs are needed at the St. Kateri Chapel – including the roof, doors and painting, with an estimated cost of $100,000, and work is needed in the ravine area. Paving and upgrades to public bathrooms would cost an additional $50,000.

The Rev. George Belgarde, shrine director, wrote in a fundraising pamphlet, “Never in the history of this shrine … have we ever faced such a financial crisis that could close the doors of the shrine. Major repairs are required, including a three-tier roof with major water damage to the coliseum.”

Caruso said attendance at the shrine has been up so far this year. The shrine is seeing about 2,000 people at the weekly Masses, he said.

Caruso said St. Kateri has been a big attraction at the shrine, especially among younger people. Kateri was named a saint in 2012 and was born in Auriesville. She died in 1680 and is featured at the shrine.

To donate to the fundraising campaign, make a check payable to the Our Lady of Martyrs Shrine Building fund drive and mail it to Our Lady of Martyrs Shrine, 136 Shrine Road, Fultonville, NY 12072.

People who donate will have their names sent to Pope Francis. The names will be placed on the altar at St. Peter’s and blessed by the pope, Caruso said.