The Christmas spirit appears to be very much alive and well in Boston —an anonymous donor gave a $100,000 winning lottery ticket to St. Anthony Shrine.
The mystery benefactor dropped off the lottery ticket on Monday, said FriarTom Conway, executive director of the downtown Catholic church. He said even he doesn’t know the donor’s identity.
Conway went to collect the winnings at the Braintree lottery office in his friar robes.
“That was a weird experience because I sort of expected for somebody to come up and say ‘What are you doing here?'” Conway said, laughing. “‘Friars shouldn’t be gambling, so why are you cashing a big winning ticket?'”
Everything went smoothly, he said, and the money is already being put to good use.
St. Anthony Shrine relies heavily on donations. The Franciscan friars church’s finances are autonomous from the Boston Archdiocese, and the 11-story building on Arch Street is home to a lot of programs that benefit different communities in the city, such as the homeless.
“It was really generous in a few ways,” Conway said. “First, the amount of money is ridiculously generous, really very kind, and another way is that he didn’t restrict the gift for anything in particular.”
The church does get a few large donations throughout the year to help supplement its $4.3 million budget, but Conway said that most of those donors specify what sort of programs they want their money to help.
This anonymous angel told Conway to use it for whatever they need.
Every year, St. Francis Church buys groceries for 500 families at Christmas time. The church will also host a veterans lunch on Dec. 27. And of course, it holds multiple worship services around the holidays, which feature professional musicians who need to be paid.
The $100,000 has helped cover all of these expenses.
“In a certain sense, this person has paid for our Christmas,” Conway said. “He kind of swooped in and has been Santa Claus here for us.”
Conway explained that it isn’t really “extra” money, as the Shrine has so many expenses around this time, but it was a huge relief as the year comes to a close.
“The typical money we get is in an individual coming in and giving a donation,” Conway said. “We just need a lot of those individual gifts to get the $4.3 million, and obviously this helps.
The Shrine has more than 30 outreach ministries, includingThe Franciscan Food Center,which works in partnership with the Greater Boston Food Bank, andBread on the Common, which assists homeless people.
The church wasrobbed in Novemberwhenindividual broke in and stole some equipment.
Conway said that he could confirm that the donor has worshipped at the Shrine, but doesn’t know how often he does or anything about the man’s personal financial situation.
Other worshippers have been very vocal about what this donation means to them, Conway said.
“With all of the bad news in the world, they like that somebody is this generous,” he said. “This is really stirring the imagination for people, they just really like it a lot that somebody among us would do that.”