For more than 50 years, Holladay’s Carmelite Monastery has held a fundraising fair on the third Sunday of September filled with ethnic cuisine, dancers, rides and prizes.
Families would follow the example of their parents and grandparents and provide booths at the traditional event.
In previous years, the Catholic nuns prayed that the weather would be kind to the fair. This year, they prayed for guidance about whether to even stage it, given the coronavirus pandemic.
Ultimately, the Carmelite sisters and the fair committee decided to cancel the event, which typically amasses 80% of the monastery’s yearly funds, according to chairman Chris Bertram.
Shari Seiner, a Carmelite donor and fair volunteer, advised the sisters to form a GoFundMe page to help raise about $120,000, and the monastery chose to pursue that path.
“Based on what we’re seeing with this virus, it’s not going away anytime soon,” Bertram said. " ... We want to sustain the nuns in the monastery for another year. And this was what we believe [is] the best opportunity to try to do that.”
Seiner said her idea of a donation page faced some resistance at first.
“[The sisters] were just so heartbroken that they couldn’t provide the fair experience as an exchange for people coming and spending money at the fair,” she said. “They were sad and reluctant to try to raise money in a different way.”
Besides the GoFundMe page — which, as of Thursday afternoon, had mustered more than $12,000 — people can also support the sisters by sending donations to the monastery, contributing through its website, or buying the nuns’ jams, candies or jellies.
Bertram said he understands the pandemic is a financial stressor, but he hopes people can help the sisters.
“The one thing about the nuns or their community is about love and prayer. That’s what they’ve dedicated their lives to,” he said. “They pray for the whole community — not just for the Catholic community — but the whole community of Utah. They put a lot of faith in God that we will raise enough money to sustain them until next year.”