Who is the Anonymous Donor Who Gave $20M to Save St. Brigid’s


Matt Dillon was among those who joined the fight to save the beloved Famine Church on Avenue B.
Photo by William Alatriste

An anonymous donor has put up an unexpected gift of $20 million to save St. Brigid’s Church, the “Famine Church” on Avenue B, from a Diocesan-appointed wrecking ball.

The donor has pledged $10 to restore the 158-year-old church as well as $8 million to support the school and $2 million to support an endowment for the parish.

“We rejoice today in the miracle that has saved our church. St. Brigid’s has long been a haven to those in need and it is altogether fitting that such a kind act of tremendous generosity would in turn safeguard her,” said Ed Torres, Chairman of the Committee to Save Saint Brigid’s. “It has been a long and hard fight to save St. Brigid’s and we are truly overjoyed. A great debt of gratitude is owed to the donor whose exceeding generosity has made our dreams come true.”

The church was slated for demolition in 2001 when the Archdiocese said it was unsafe and too expensive to repair. The congregation of the church, built in 1848 by Irish immigrants fleeing the Great Famine, responded to the loss of their church by trying to raise the funds to repair it and battling the archdiocese in court. The parishioners were on their way to raising the $275,000 that they believed would fix the church, but the archdiocese put that figure at $7 million.

Demolition began on the church in July of 2006 but work was halted as a judge issued a temporary restraining order after one day of demolition.

Thank God for that. Imagine if the parishioners just rolled over without a fight. The archdiocese would have nothing to celebrate today.

Cardinal Egan said in a statement:

“This magnificent gift will make it possible for Saint Brigid’s Church to be fittingly restored with its significant structural problems properly addressed. The two additional gifts, to create an endowment for the parish and to support the parish school, are a powerful testament to the donor’s goodness and understanding. He has my heartfelt gratitude, as I recently told him at a meeting in my residence.”