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Mormon neighbors help Catholic nuns with annual Carmelite Fair

HOLLADAY — For more than a decade, Ted Martinez has been tasked with setting up and taking down a fundraising fair for local nuns.

And for just as long, members of a local LDS stake — comprising geographically defined congregations called wards — have shown up to help.

Martinez is a fourth-degree knight in the Knights of Columbus — a fraternal service organization in the Catholic Church — and helps with the fair as part of his duties.

Late Tuesday morning, about 25 men from the Knights of Columbus, the LDS Holladay South Stake and two LDS missionaries were working side by side to set up for the annual Carmelite Fair, which will be held Sunday at the Carmelite Monastery, 5714 Holladay Blvd. Martinez expected the number of volunteers to double by early evening.

Peter Hoj, second counselor in the Holladay South Stake presidency, took a brief break from assembling tent frames to discuss why he and others from his stake come each year.

"We're all fighting the same mortal battle, and we're all in it together. … It doesn't matter if it's our own flock or someone else's flock, (you) just kind of lighten the load. I mean it's really what life's all about," he said, before returning to work.

Perhaps another thing impelling the group to service are the nuns themselves.

"They're just very good people — very devoted to God — and we love that aspect of it," Hoj said.

Metal pipes clanged, tarps billowed and carts rolled to move items into place while dozens of tables and chairs leaned against pillars and walls, the sights and sounds of service to benefit a group of cloistered nuns who are unable to do so for themselves.

The Carmelite nuns have been in Utah since 1952, when they came from the Carmel of St. Teresa Monastery in Alhambra, California, to bring their way of life to Salt Lake City — a place they described at the time as a spiritual desert with a Catholic minority.

The sisters offer seven formal prayers a day and do not participate in active work outside the monastery.

"We pray for the world no matter what religion they are," said Sister Therese, a nun at the monastery. "In between, we work very hard."

The 12 nuns living at the Holladay monastery make altar bread for Communion in the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City — as well as for local Lutheran and Episcopal churches — along with jam and candy, which they will sell at Sunday's fair. They also tend to a garden and preserve the vegetables they grow.

Some of the sisters also create works of art, some of which will be up for auction Sunday, including an intricately embroidered oriental scene hand stitched by one of the sisters.

The festival is the main fundraiser for the monastery. Although the sisters live within diocesan boundaries, they are self-sustaining. The nuns sell jam and candy throughout the year, but they depend on proceeds from the festival to continue their way of life.

"We really are so blessed. We are so blessed," Sister Therese said of the support they receive from the community.

On the day of the festival, Mother Maureen and Sister Therese will offer prayers, one at 11 a.m. to open the festival and the Angelus prayer at noon.

Festival chairman Lou Bertram, a retired FBI agent, suggests coming early to buy produce, fudge and jam.

"People will come at 11 o'clock, run in, grab the produce, run over and grab the jellies and the fudge or peanut brittle and leave. That's it. That's all they want," he said.

Those interested in the 5K run can visit facebook.comRunForTheNuns, call 801-675-8593 or email

To learn more about the fair go to

"Tell all your friends to tell all their friends to show up," Martinez said.

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