Carmelite Fair honoring Sister Mary Joseph

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HOLLADAY -- The annual Carmelite Fair coming up this Sunday has some extra energy this year as planners remember its long-time organizer, Sister Mary Joseph, who was 77 when she died July 13.

The fair and Sister Mary Joseph's work organizing it became so synonymous the monastery thought the event might not continue without the energetic nun.

Carmelite Annual Fair
Sun. Sept. 19
11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
5714 Holladay Blvd.
Food, entertainment, rides and games, handicrafts, live auction Free parking and shuttle service provided by Juan Diego High School
Click here for more information.

"We thought we wouldn't do the fair any more when Mary Joseph couldn't do it anymore," said Reverend Mother Maureen of the Carmel of the Immaculate Heart of Mary monastery in Holladay. "But the people said, 'We'll carry on just the same.'"

The annual fair includes food, music and other entertainment, carnival rides, auctions, drawings for prizes, and gift boutiques. It typically attracts 4,000 visitors and raises 80 percent of the money used to support the monastery and its nine nuns.

"It really is our only fundraising event for the year, so we really depend upon it for our financial support," said Reverend Mother Maureen.

Just off a busy main thoroughfare, a quiet community prepares for this important annual event. Friends and neighbors are turning the grounds of the monastery into a public fair.

The 9 Sisters of Carmel, members of an international religious order, live contemplative lives. Their vocation is prayer all day, every day. The sisters receive visitors in a room divided by bars that separate them from the outside world.

Sister Mary Joseph
Sister Mary joined the Catholic Church in 1957 and later became a member of the Carmelite Order. She had also been the "Outside Nun" or public ambassador for the monastery for years. She has been organizing the Carmelite fair since 1975. The fair pays for utilities and medical expenses at Carmel of the Immaculate Heart Monastery. She died July 13 of complications from diabetes. She was 77.

"That's the purpose of the enclosure, so that we can live with God, alone, without the distractions," Reverend Mother Maureen said.

Before there was a fair, the sisters raised money by holding an annual tea. But a silver service and cookies gave way to the food booths, rides and handicrafts that now mark the current annual fair.

The gathering has become more than an event -- the fair brings people of all faiths together.

"Just that whole spirit of community and everybody working together... Such respect," said Barbara Stilinovich, a Carmelite Fair committee member.

Not only will the fair have its usual lineup of activities this year, organizers have added a 5K run or walk in Sister Mary Joseph's memory.

Sister Mary Joseph had served as a nun at the monastery since 1975. Born Barbara Whipperman, she was given the name Sister Mary Joseph when she became a nun.

Fair committee member Andrew Christensen said he has been involved with the fair, and worked with Sister Mary Joseph, since 1994. "She was my best friend and my spiritual leader. If I had problems in my life or in my church," he said, "I would go to Sister (Mary Joseph) and she would help me through them."

Run for the Nuns
In memory of Sister Mary Joseph
Sun. Sept. 19
9:30 a.m.
For more information click here.

"I'm praying and hoping she has that perpetual smile she always donned on everyone she met and she's looking down upon us right now with that great smile saying, 'You guys are doing a great job,'" Christensen said.

Stilinovich said it will be hard not seeing Sister Mary Joseph zipping around with a baseball cap perched on top of her habit.

Still, organizing the fair had become became increasingly difficult for Sister Mary Joseph as she got older. "It was hard on her, it was. And her health was getting poor, gradually," Reverend Mother Maureen said. "So you have to accept what comes."

The fair takes place Sunday, Sept. 19, at the monastery, 5714 Holladay Blvd., from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. More information is available at


Story compiled with contributions from Carole Mikita of KSL TV and Steve Fidel of the Deseret News.

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