Washington’s Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is spearheading local fundraising efforts to support the Notre Dame Cathedral, which grapples with the aftermath of a devastating fire in Paris on April 15. On the evening of the fire, the National Shrine posted a donation page on its website.
Less than 24 hours later, more than $35,000 has been donated to the fund, says the shrine’s rector, Monsignor Walter Rossi. Despite the tragic circumstances that prompted the fund’s creation, Rossi sees a display of humanity’s benevolence. “When tragedy strikes, it brings out the best in people,” he says. “This is yet another confirmation of the goodness of people.”
Rossi says the donations themselves vary in size and origin. “From as little as $5 to as great as $1,000 with smatterings of $25, $50, and $100 in between,” he says. “Also, interestingly enough, from local to as far as China.”
Not that the National Shrine has any official relationship with China, or the Notre Dame Cathedral, for that matter. The decision to open the fund, a group decision from members of the shrine’s staff, came in the spirit of solidarity with another Roman Catholic Marian shrine.
“We have no direct connection in any way shape or form,” he says. “Notre Dame is 800 years old and we’re only 100 years old, but we’re relatives, basically. And you help your relatives.”
In the name of that kinship, Rossi says the National Shrine will also contribute directly by bolstering the fund that’s sent. “The intention is that as we see what’s coming in, then we will contribute as well, something similar to a matching donation,” he says. “As you read the news, you see how the whole world is responding because of the significance of this place, and we’re trying to do our part as well.”
The National Shrine plans to keep the fund open until donations stop coming in. Considering the amount of donations so far, it might be awhile.