By NICOLE ANTONUCCI
AURIESVILLE -- Since beginning a fundraising effort, the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs has raised more than $500,000 and will be able to remain open.
While the hope is to raise $1 million, the shrine has raise enough to cover some of the major capital improvements, including a roof replacement on both the 82-year-old coliseum and the St. Kateri Chapel, replacement of 72 windows in the coliseum and repairs to the 2-ton tilted crucifix.
Saratoga-based TV and radio personality Joey Caruso, who is coordinating the fundraiser, said the projects would not have been possible without the donations have been coming in from all around the world including Italy, France, Portugal, Vietnam, New Mexico, and California.
"There is a message here that these holy grounds, that are associated with four saints, are loved, and these holy grounds are respected out of memory of what used to be," Caruso said. "These people are passing this down to the next generation of Christians."
Caruso has been involved with the effort since last year, and helped devise the list of major improvements needed to prevent closure. In addition to the aforementioned projects, the campus needs a new water system to meet code, updated electrical work and interior painting due to water damage.
The fundraiser will continue into 2015 with the hope of raising another $500,000 to fund the remaining projects, but Caruso said he expects to make the goal.
"We had a woman donate $10,000 and then a few days later donate another $5,000. A woman from Alabama sent a check for $10,000," he said. "The outpouring of love is remarkable."
In November, the Rev. George H. Belgarde indicated the shrine was having trouble making payroll and funding day-to-day operations due to a decrease in attendance and collections.
The holy grounds saw a boost in attendance in connection with the October 2012 canonization of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, but the numbers have since dropped compared to the past two years.
The site of the Shrine of Our Lady of Martyrs was once a 17th century Mohawk village called Ossernenon, where three Jesuit missionaries were martyred during the 1640s. The Rev. Isaac Jogues, Rene Goupil, and John Lalande, a lay missionary, are the only canonized American martyrs. Together with five Jesuit priests killed in the native missions of Canada, they are known as the North American Martyrs.
The "Lily of the Mohawks," St. Kateri Tekakwitha, was born on the grounds in 1656.