We need everything to pay for itself and people need clarity on what they are donating to
collections and donations. These costs are entirely separate to the ‘Witness to Hope’ programme. Everything, Fr Gibbons stresses, is carefully accounted for.
“We need everything to pay for itself and people need clarity that if they are donating to Witness to Hope, that it goes to Witness to Hope.”
Knock’s significant financial contribution to the local economy and to many local families is probably one of the reasons why the fundraising campaign has been supported so strongly locally. According to Fr Gibbons, roughly 75pc of the €13.4m collected so far has come from the West of Ireland.
“It is incredible. People see the benefit of Knock for the region. Knock shrine and the airport have been at the heart of the development of the west.”
He is fulsome in his praise of the generosity of the people of Knock village, with a population of just 972, which raised over €500,000 for its holy site. “This small rural parish was outstanding,” he enthuses.
The rest of the donations have come from Irish emigrants in Britain, the US and the faithful around Ireland, as well as dioceses, clergy, religious orders and all the bishops. He admits people thought he was “a little bit crazy” when he set 2017 as the deadline for €14m target.
There must have been many sleepless nights? “Yes — quite a few! It was not plain sailing, especially when we were in the middle of it. But I’m convinced that Our Lady played a part...”
But why would he have embarked on this when the Church was grappling with the fallout of the abuse scandals and the economy was still in the doldrums after the financial collapse? “That was the time to do it because we needed to give the Church here a bit of a boost. Knock has a role to play if we are ever going to renew the Church in Ireland. It was time to give people hope.” Hence the title ‘Witness to Hope’.
But there will be no resting on laurels for Fr Gibbons and his team. “We are not taking the foot off the pedal yet. There is still the remaining €750,000 to collect before the end of the year. Then there is the World Meeting of Families next year which we need to be prepared for.” It might all seem like a bit of a headache but no doubt the novena numbers, which continue to hold up at 100,000, must give him some satisfaction. “People love Knock,” he states simply.
Perhaps it’s time to recognise the miracle that is Knock.