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Fair supporting Utah nuns draws big crowd

Published September 17, 2012 7:45 am

Fundraiser • Annual event at monastery called "a labor of love."
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Holladay • Vehicles lined both sides of Holladay Boulevard for several blocks Sunday as people poured on to the Carmelite Monastery grounds to mingle, enjoy live music and dance performances, eat, shop — and support a good cause.

Eleven Catholic nuns — part of the worldwide order known as Carmel of the Immaculate Heart of Mary — live, work and pray on the 8-acre property tucked away in this east-side suburb at 5714 Holladay Blvd.

Sunday's events commenced with a 10 a.m. "Run for the Nuns" 5K race, followed by the 11 a.m. fair that served up diverse entertainment, food and auction items.

The fair aims to raise enough money to cover the living expenses of the sisters through the coming year.

"It's a labor of love and we feel like this is God's work," said Annette Kirts, a Catholic who chairs the fair's finance and security committee.

Kirts, a Midvale resident who moved to Utah from the East Coast in 1961, remembers early on that the nuns served tea and cookies to raise funds.

"That event kind of grew," Kirts said.

Food booths featured Basque and Greek delights Sunday, along with the more traditional hamburgers and hotdogs. Craft booths sold baby blankets and clothing crocheted and sewn by the nuns, and candy booths displayed the fudge, caramels, peanut brittle and toffee the sisters also routinely make and sell.

Mother Superior Maureen Goodwin, 79, spoke of the generous donations the community provides. In addition to candy-making, the nuns also bake altar breads and wafers that area churches buy for use in communion services.

"We would not be able to live on the altar bread business," Goodwin said, "so our main source of financial support is the annual fair."

West Valley City resident Gloria Johnson dropped by the fair Sunday to recapture a distant memory.

"I came years ago and it seemed like a lot of fun," Johnson said, adding that she planned to spend "a bit" of money.

As they exited the beer booth Sunday, each carrying a glass of cold brew, Holladay residents Dan and Lindsay Long said they've enjoyed the fair for 27 years .

"Every year we look forward to it," Dan Long said, adding that his parents run the nearby cotton candy booth. "It's a great atmosphere and a great cause."

Julie McNeill, of Salt Lake City, donated several dollars in hopes of winning the fair's first-ever "booze basket," stocked with white wine, Belgian ale and bottles of Evan Williams bourbon and Jack Daniel's whiskey. The 53-year-old grandmother said she has attended the fair since her childhood.

The fair's silent and live auctions provide most of the funding that allows the Carmelite nuns to keep the heat and lights on. Auctioneer Bill Brown dropped off a framed jersey from Real Salt Lake soccer player Will Johnson the day before, one of many items he would sell off Sunday afternoon.

The day's diverse entertainment included the Juan Diego Steel Drum Band, Utah Pipe Band, Higher Ground Jazz Band, Basque and Greek Dancers, and Real Salt Lake's Leo the Lion.

"They all perform for free, out of the love of their hearts," said Rich Laniewski, who emceed the day's events with Lonny Eschler, both from Sandy.

Lou Bertram, a retired FBI agent who moved to Salt Lake City from Los Angeles in 1980, chaired this year's fair and called it "the culmination of a lot of hard work."

Retired Salt Lake City resident Henry Lachowski, camera in hand, said he had volunteered at the event for two decades.

"We miss Sister Mary Joseph, we were very close to her for many years," Lachowski said of the late Carmelite nun who had served as the gregarious "extern" sister linking the cloistered Carmelite nuns to the outside world.

Born Barbara Whipperman, Sister Mary Joseph was a Utah native who converted from Mormonism. Kirts described her as a funny but strong leader.

"She guided all of us and kept us under control. Now we're trying to keep ourselves under control," she grinned.

In her absence, Kirts said they all pray for strength to pull off the annual event, adding that "this is part of our tithe of time, talent and treasure."

The Carmelite nuns celebrate their 60th anniversary in Utah this year and plan to celebrate with a commemorative Dec. 8 mass, Goodwin said.

cmckitrick@sltrib.com

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