'Widow's mite' still a mystery

One of the enduring mysteries of Hurricane Katrina is the identity of a California woman – a member of St. Lawrence of Brindisi Parish in the Watts section of Los Angeles – who placed her gold wedding ring in an envelope for the second collection in September 2005 that was being taken up for Hurricane Katrina relief.

The ring was forwarded to Msgr. Doug Doussan, left, then the pastor of St. Gabriel the Archangel Parish, by Capuchin Franciscan Father Peter Banks, whose inner-city parish raised more than $10,000 for the New Orleans parish.


Father Banks, now 69, said he never was able to find out who the woman was. She had written on the envelope in Spanish: “For the victims of the hurricane. I did not bring any money. But this should be of some value. It is with all of my heart.”

Father Banks said a woman came forward after the story broke, but he believes she was an impostor looking to cash in.

“People offered me a lot of money for the ring,” Father Banks said. “But I said, ‘No, this ring was given for the people of New Orleans. Even if you gave me a million dollars, it is going to New Orleans.’ What an inspiration that woman was to me and our people. It was an amazing act of charity and love. God knows, and that’s all that matters.”

St. Gabriel keeps the ring in its offices.

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