Our Lady of Knock Shrine is located in the northern Catskills at the hamlet of East Durham. The beautiful church is part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany. Reverend Jay Atherton is the current pastor of the church, which offers daily and weekend masses. Atherton also serves as pastor for Sacred Heart in Cairo, St. John the Baptist in Greenville, St. Theresa’s in Windham, Sacred Heart in Palenville and Immaculate Conception in Haines Falls.
The Our Lady of Knock Shrine was constructed in 1989 with seating capacity for 500 people. The interior is decorated with stained-glass windows from Donegal, Ireland, which depict many of the favorite Celtic saints. There are also mahogany carvings and an altar screen that resembles the original church wall in the village of Knock on which the apparition appeared.
Over the exterior doors, decorated with a wood carving depicting a family of four entering the church, is the Bible passage from John 6, verse 51. “I myself am the living bread come down from heaven. If anyone eats this bread, he shall live forever. The bread I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
The stained-glass window over the exterior doors was donated by The Mayo Society, which was founded in 1879 at New York City to assist immigrants moving to the United States from County Mayo, Ireland due to the potato famine.
Gerry Laverty, a designer, architect and craftsman from Dunkineely, County Donegal, designed and built much of the interior of the Shrine at his workshop in Ireland, and then amazingly exported it to East Durham, New York in the United States. He employed 17 people for the project, which was worth more than $250,000.
“‘It all started when I was making a few Irish souvenirs – copper and woodwork items. The fellow marketing them in the States happened to be from Donegal. Next thing he asked me to design a shop front for him. I made it and shipped it out to East Durham in upstate New York. Then the Irish community there asked if I would work on the church. It was all by chance and good luck – no planning at all.’ . . .
Some sales success was achieved with high-quality Irish artefacts, mostly sold to the US, but fluctuations in exchange rates put paid to that. Then along came the shop front project. An entire frontage made in Donegal, complete with carvings and paintings, is now part of an Irish goods shop in New York . . .
The church has taken a year to complete. Two of the Laverty daughters have done much of the work on about 70 stained glass windows for the church. Laverty himself has carved 20 statues. Workers at his small factory have been putting in more than 40 hours overtime per week recently in order to get the project finished.
‘Two container loads of material, including everything from the tabernacle to a 32 ft. spire, are going out to the US. The funny thing is that the architect I’m working with over there is Jewish. And I’ve made it plain that I am not a particularly religious person. But the community is great. It has just said ‘Go ahead.’”
(“Opportunity Knocks for Gerry.” Financial Times. August 12, 1989. p. 6.)
The shrine commemorates the August 21, 1879 event at the village of Knock in County Mayo, Ireland in which locals reported to have seen an apparition of the Virgin Mary, Saint Joseph and Saint John the Evangelist as well as the Lamb of God, understood to be Jesus Christ, on an altar standing before a cross. The apparition was a silent one. The event took place on the gable wall of the Parish Church. There were 15 witnesses to the apparition, ranging in ages from 5 to 75 years old, all of whom watched it for two hours as they recited the rosary.
All 15 witnesses testified for the Church inquiry later that year of 1879, and the commission found that “the testimony of all, taken as a whole, was trustworthy and satisfactory.” A second inquiry was held in 1936, which confirmed the findings of 1879. Every Pope since Pius XII (1939-1958) has recognized Knock, including Saint John Paul II during his 1979 visit to commemorate the centenary of the apparition.
Prayer to Our Lady of Knock
Our Lady of Knock, Queen of Ireland, you gave hope to your people in a time of distress and comforted them in sorrow. You have inspired countless pilgrims to pray with confidence to your divine Son, remembering His promise, “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find." Help me to remember that we are all pilgrims on the road to Heaven. Fill me with love and concern for my brothers and sisters in Christ, especially those who live with me. Comfort me when I am sick, lonely or depressed. Teach me how to take part ever more reverently in the Holy Mass. Give me a greater love of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Pray for me now and at the hour of my death. Amen.
The word ‘knock’ “is an anglicization of the Irish word cnoc, meaning a hill . . . One’s first impression, though the elevation is only 400 feet above sea level, is of being on top of the world.” At the time of the apparition, the village of Knock was quite small, with only a dozen or so “thatched cabins.”
The village of Knock of 1879, at the time of the apparition, was suffering from hard times. “The stony soil of their little patchwork of fields surrounded by dark peat bogs scarcely yielded enough in good years to pay the terrible rents charged by cruel landlords. And 1879 in Mayo was a bad year; a potato failure brought on a famine comparable to those experienced by the entire country 30 odd years earlier. The people, their few possessions long since sold to stave off eviction, huddled at night on the earthen floors of their bare huts. Their only coverings were a few tattered potato bags. Their food consisted of a watery gruel made with corn meal obtained on relief tickets.” (Our Lady of Knock in Ireland. St. Paul, Minnesota: Catholic Digest, Inc.: 1957. pp. 8-9.)
The Feast of Our Lady of Knock is celebrated by the Roman Catholic church annually on August 17. The village of Knock has become a popular international pilgrimage destination for the faithful, attracting over 1.5 million people every year.