The small group of nuns who work and live in the Fraternite Notre Dame on the city’s West Side have dedicated their lives to helping families, children, and people who are terminally ill – but now they are the ones in need of help.
During the year's worst cold snap, both of the church's massive boilers weren't working, leaving the women trying to survive without heat in the record-breaking subzero temperatures.
“The first boiler died two weeks ago and the second boiler died two days ago,” sister Marie Valerie said.
Since then, the eight nuns who live and work in the building have been sleeping around electric space heaters.
“It's not easy to live like that,” Valerie said.
Sister Marie Valerie says even the needy, who rely on Fraternite Notre Dame for regular meals, have noticed just how unbearably cold it is.
“They said to us, ‘We are going to pray to God for you to find some help,’” She said.
Now a local Austin neighborhood middle school teacher, Mark Fratella, may be the answer to those prayers.
After hearing about the nuns' situation, Fratella set up a GoFundMe page in an effort to raise the funds necessary to get the nuns through this winter.
“They've done so much for others over the years,” Fratella said. “It was time for somebody to do something for them.”
The campaign goal of $40,000 is enough to pay for temporary equipment to heat the building until the spring.
However, a permanent solution would be new boilers and proper insulation to a building that is more than a century old, which could cost up to $200,000.
“Give whatever you can, even if it's a dollar or two,” Fratella asked.
To donate to the cause, visit http://www.gofundme.com/k5vh0k.