The Carmelite Sisters of the Infant Jesus got a welcome surprise donation that has allowed the order to do renovations to its chapel in Zephyr, Ont. Photo courtesy of Carmelite Sisters of Infant Jesus

‘Great surprise’ funds much-needed renovations in convent chapel

By  Mickey Conlon, The Catholic Register
  • November 3, 2016

Inside the sealed envelope, the instructions from the mystery donor were clear.

The money he was bequesting to the Archdiocese of Toronto was to be used for a contemplative order “that was experiencing difficulties in Canada” or some “other worthy but unglamorous venture.”

And so it was that the Carmelite Sisters of the Infant Jesus, the only women contemplative order in the archdiocese, found themselves with a $150,000 cheque.

It has certainly come in handy for the sisters in Zephyr, Ont., a small community about an hour north of Toronto.

“It was such a great surprise,” said Mother Marie Therese of the Child Jesus and of the Holy Face in an email. “This does not happen often…. This will resolve several problems we have there.”

The donation is being used to kick-start a long-needed renovation to the convent’s chapel. The entryway has been a source of many problems for the nuns since they moved into their new home in 2006.

Water leakage has been an ongoing issue, as well as the deterioration of the concrete stairway. Over the years, they have tried to repair what they could, but now, they have an opportunity to rebuild the vestibule.

“Since we are on top of a hill and our location is very windy, our priests and friends coming to Mass through the chapel entrance is especially dangerous,” said Mother Therese.

Currently, the chapel’s front entrance is totally exposed, but Mother Therese said the new vestibule will be better reinforced to serve as a shelter year-round, especially for the handicapped.

Two long handicap ramps will be built on two sides of the chapel and a small elevator will be built inside the vestibule.

Mother Therese said the Carmelite Sisters are very grateful for this mysterious donation because they would otherwise have limited means to fund larger repairs to their convent.

“Generally, we depend on almsgiving, especially in the form of prayer requests,” said Mother Therese.

Mother Therese said that all the money will be going into the vestibule renovations, but they’re still hoping that there might be enough money left to help in their efforts to buy a small trailer where individual sisters can pray in solitude.

As a contemplative order, part of the sisters’ spirituality calls them to periods of prayer in hermitage, away from the external world and even from their own community.

The Carmelite Sisters of the Infant Jesus first came to Toronto in 1990. Carmelite Sisters from Hong Kong arrived in Markham, Ont., to establish a new foundation in Canada.

The Infant Jesus of Prague was promptly chosen as the patron of “the new Carmel in Markham.”

With the rapid urban development in their neighbourhood, the sisters moved in June 2006 to a new, more spacious home in Zephyr. The convent and chapel were officially consecrated by then Archbishop (now Cardinal) Thomas Collins on Sept. 8, 2007.

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