We need ev­ery­thing to pay for it­self and peo­ple need clar­ity on what they are do­nat­ing to

Irish Independent - Weekend Review - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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