"I wanted to save my church from closing!" he said, after making a donation of one million euros for the restoration.
“I wanted to save my church from closing!” says Raymond Landy, 89, a modest and discreet man. He wanted to keep his donation of one million euros (more than one million dollars) for the restoration of the church of St. Lupus and St. Roch in his hometown of Chapelle-sur-Aveyron (a tiny rural town in central France) a secret. Above all, he wanted to avoid drawing attention to himself.
But as the news spread, this retired farmer quickly found himself at the center of media attention. In his great humility, he let others tell his story. But for Aleteia, he opened the door of his room at the nursing home where he’s been living for the past year to share the unbreakable bond he has with “his” church, which he wanted to see repaired more than anything.
Christian Chevallier, the mayor of the town, is at his side during the interview and doesn’t have enough words to thank his generous donor.
“For several years now, the ceiling frame has been sagging in the middle of the nave. A vault is also cracking. To prevent pieces of plaster from falling on the faithful, a protective net has been installed. The church of St. Lupus and St. Roch is the only property of our town. There was no question of closing it,” he explained to Aleteia. (In France, as a result of the Revolution, Church buildings became the property of the state and local governments.)
But removing the entire roof, rebuilding the ceiling frame, and redoing the vaulting all came at a price. An architect estimated the cost of the work at 1.2 million euros – an astronomical sum for the small rural town of 642 souls.
“We’ve been trying to find money for almost 10 years,” admits Mayor Chevallier. “The church is not classified (as an historical monument, Ed.), so we will not have more than 20% of subsidies from the region and the department,” calculates the elected official. “And our budget of 140,000 euros doesn’t allow us to consider such work. I never thought I would be able to start any work.” So what was his (wonderful) surprise when Raymond Landy told him that he wished to give the necessary sum to the community!
Fr. Jean Sigot, pastor of the eleven parishes of Chatillon-Coligny-Nogent sur Vernisson, also said he was particularly touched by Raymond Landy’s “humble gesture.” Like Mayor Chevallier, he often visits the retired farmer at his retirement home.
“This is an unexpected gift for the town, which has been concerned for several years about the state of its church, where there are two to three Masses during the year,” he tells Aleteia, happy to see the church restored soon thanks to Raymond Landy. “It’s open for funerals, weddings, and baptisms, and during the Christmas holidays and Heritage Days, thanks to the parishioners.”
Two years ago, this farmer with a radiant smile lost his brother, Roger. Both single, they had always lived together in the house where they were born. “I was my brother’s heir. Since I don’t have any heirs myself, I didn’t want all the money to go to the state when I died,” Raymond told Aleteia with a mischievous grin. So he decided to give it to his community … to repair the church.
“I was baptized there, I made my first communion there, my profession of faith and my confirmation,” he explains. “Before, there were Masses all the time …” he explains with a trembling voice. And he continues: “Today, the church is in a very bad state. Without work, it would have to close. So I decided to give the money to the town hall for its repair.” This considerable sum will be dedicated solely to this task, promises the mayor, who indicates that “Mr. Landy will be able to monitor the progress of the work.”
“I can’t wait for the church to be repaired”
To thank the octogenarian for his generosity, the town even decided to rename the church square after him and his brother Roger – an idea that Raymond Landy categorically rejected. “Church Square” will remain “Church Square.” The mayor is still thinking of installing a plaque outside or inside the building to immortalize the story of the benefactor.
In the meantime, Raymond Landy is preparing to celebrate Christmas. While he’d have liked to attend Christmas Mass at his beloved parish, he admits he’s unable to do so. “I can’t walk much anymore, I have Parkinson’s disease. But I’ll go to Mass here at the nursing home,” says the man who never misses a Sunday Mass.
In the meantime, he “can’t wait for (his) church to be repaired.” Work on it should begin in the spring of 2024. “In 2023, we will put together the file to apply for grants. They will finance the restoration of part of the choir and the bell tower of the church. Thus, we will restore the church and it will start activities again for another century!”