HOLLADAY, Utah (ABC4 News) – The Carmelite Fair is the latest event to be cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns, leaving the cloistered Carmelite Nuns without a way to fund their living expenses for the year.
From behind a grill in the greeting room, Sister Therese Bui explained to ABC4 News the way of life for her and eleven other nuns at the Carmelite Monastery.
“It is a special vocation in the way that we give up everything,” she said.
The beloved nuns live a disciplined, cloistered lifestyle, not even showing face during their annual Carmelite Fair in September.
Thousands of people from all over the valley normally attend, no matter their religious affiliation to raise money for the nuns’ living expenses for the entire year.
“I think the community does recognize that the Carmelites are a unique presence in the valley and that we’re lucky to have them here,” said Shari Seiner, volunteer for the Carmelite Fair. “They have a special place in my heart. They have warmed their way in.”
The fair has gone on without a hitch for 68 years, despite rain or shine. Festivities have included raffles, refreshments, games, and more. But this year, it will be a different story with the COVID-19 pandemic bringing everything to a halt.
“For the good of society, the good of the people, we need to cancel the fair this year. It was a very difficult and emotional decision,” Sister Therese said.
She added, “The fair is also our connection to the community. It’s one of the ways that we invite people into our lives. We absolutely love the people.”
The cancellation poses critical issues for the nuns who rely on the fundraiser as their main source of income for the year. The proceeds allows for maintenance of the monastery, medical expenses, house expenses, chaplaincy, and most importantly, their continued vocation of life in prayer.
But their concerns were quickly met by community members and volunteers who were eager to find another way to help sustain the monastery.
“We have created a GoFundMe fundraiser to help the nuns recover from the loss of the funds that would have been raised through their annual Fair. They have dedicated their lives to loving and praying for each of us, and now they need our help to continue their mission,” said Chris Bertram, Chair of the Carmelite Fair Committee.
Donations can also be sent to the Carmelite Monastery at 5714 Holladay Boulevard in Holladay, UT 84121.
“We shouldn’t really consider the Carmelites as a Catholic-only charity because they really do benefit us all, especially now. With COVID, they are an amazing role model, living a life of solitude with grace and peace,” said Seiner. “We could really use that, regardless of our faith.”
Tentatively, the fair is scheduled to take place again in September 2021 at their monastery in Holladay.
“We trust that the good Lord will take care of us. The Lord will take care of everyone and take care of the nuns,” said Sister Therese.