UPDATE: Local Catholic priest walks from 'Millionaire' with quarter of a million dollars

Published: Sep. 28, 2016 at 12:19 AM EDT
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UPDATE 9/29/16 @ 6:15 p.m.

KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- After vying for a spot on the show for 17 years, a Catholic priest walked from "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" with a quarter of a million dollars.

The show was pre-recorded earlier in the summer and the second part aired Thursday morning. A watch party was held at St. Francis of Assissi, Father Bill Matheny's former elementary school where he attended from the first to the eighth grade.

Father Matheny's half million dollar question asked which task the Luhn algorithm was used in: changing traffic lights, predicting tornadoes, verifying credit card numbers or conducting a military draft.

Father Matheny thought the answer was "verifying credit card numbers" but ultimately decided to walk with $250,000.

The answer was right but he says it wasn't worth risking it since a large portion of his winnings are going to St. Francis.

"If I were playing only for myself, I would've gone for it. It seemed like that logical answer but I watch the show enough to know that when someone gets to this level what seems logical is not always the right answer," Father Matheny told WSAZ. "So I was concerned. If it were me, I would've risked it because I could've lived with $50,000 but for the school I couldn't jeopardize $200,000."

Father Matheny plans on donating a large portion of his winnings to student scholarships and to supplement teacher salaries, a big help for the school.

"It started at a point where just sometimes you have low points I guess and it was then and there I was just worried about this school year and our finances and I get this email from Father Matheny. It was sent from God," principal Erin Sikora said.

UPDATE 9/28/16 @ 6:20 p.m.

KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va (WSAZ) -- After auditioning for 17 years for the popular game show "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" a Catholic priest with roots in the Kanawha Valley had his prayer answered.

"Do you believe in karma?" host Chris Harrison asked Father Bill Matheny during the show that aired Wednesday morning on WSAZ NewsChannel 3. "I believe in karma as well," he continued. "I believe there's some good karma in the air about this."

The show was pre-recorded earlier in the summer and aired Thursday morning. A watch party was held at St. Francis of Assissi, Matheny's former elementary school where he attended from the first to the eighth grade.

He previously said he would donate a portion of his winnings to his former elementary school in St. Albans, St. Francis of Assissi.

He renewed that pledge Wednesday, saying the school would see a good amount of his winnings but would not specify how much.

The principal of St. Francis says any amount is appreciated and welcomed, especially after they have added special programs this past year to help teach children with disabilities and with autism and dyslexia.

"We are gonna be able to do even more, maybe some of the items on our wish list will be checked off," says principal Erin Sikora. "We have no idea so you know win, lose or draw, we are really thankful that he's thought of our school and that it's stayed with him all these years. From the time he was a young child, it has stayed in his heart all these years."

Matheny pointed out that he is only the second West Virginian to appear on the syndicated version of the show and hopes to pave the way for more.

"The show has not had a millionaire since it's first season in 2003, so there's a possibility that I could be the next millionaire," he says.

Wednesday he utilized all three life lines on route to answering the $250,000 question correctly.

The priest is sworn to secrecy and will not reveal much about what happens in the second part of his episode, other than his attire. "Well you'll see me in a different sweater tomorrow, because I had to change sweaters. And Chris Harrison will be in a different outfit, as well," Matheny said.

Thursday, he will face the $500,000 question and possibly, a chance at $1 million.

Find out how much Father Matheny walks away with at 11 a.m. Thursday on WSAZ NewsChannel 3, and catch Father Matheny on First Look at Four at 4 p.m. Thursday.

ORIGINAL STORY 9/28/16 @ 12:19 a.m.

KANAWHA COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) – A Catholic priest formerly from the Kanawha Valley will be a contestant Wednesday on the TV game show “Who Wants to be A Millionaire?”

The Rev. Father Bill Matheny will be in St. Albans on Wednesday to watch the taped telecast, which airs at 11 a.m. Wednesday on WSAZ NewsChannel 3.

Father Matheny currently serves as a priest in Bridgeport, West Virginia, but he went to school at St. Francis of Assisi in St. Albans.

That’s where he will be to watch Wednesday’s show, along with pastors, teachers, parents and children.

Father Matheny says the school is special to him because it had one of the greatest impacts on his desire to learn.