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Offers Of Help Rolling In For Nuns Without Heat

CHICAGO (CBS) -- After having gone more than two days without heat, and seeing temperatures in their church drop below freezing, a group of French nuns ministering to residents in the Austin neighborhood was flooded with offers of help to raise $200,000 for a new heating system.

The first of two old boilers that heat Fraternite Notre Dame at 502 N. Central Av. died two weeks ago. The other one broke down on Ash Wednesday, according to Sister Marie Valerie, one of the French nuns who have spent more than two days shivering inside their West Side church.

There was some good news to report Friday. Volunteers have helped work on the failing boilers while financial pledges are made for a long-term fix. Meanwhile, an industrial-sized portable heater was set up in the church to warm the building, CBS 2's Brad Edwards reports.

"Thank you, thank you, thank you for your help," Sister Marie told donors, in an interview with Edwards.


Despite those aggravating conditions, she and the other sisters have continued to care for those in need. The nuns have continued serving food to the roughly 200 homeless people who visit their church every day, but Sister Marie said their guests have taken note of the temperature inside.

"They told us, whatever you did for us, for that long, now you need to find some people to help you out. Now it's your turn," she said.

The sisters have been praying for donations and warmer weather.

Luckily, after temperatures were in single digits or below zero all day Wednesday and Thursday, and most of Friday morning, they were climbing in to the teens Friday afternoon, and could get up to 30 on Saturday. That won't last, either, as next week, temperatures will be back in the teens and single digits virtually all week.

Sister Marie estimated they'll need $200,000 to replace the boilers, a more long-term solution than the initial plan to just repair the exiting boilers for about $40,000. It's not just the boilers that need fixing. Insulation and piping also need repairs.

Among the donors who surfaced Friday was Father Scott Donahue of Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, who announced a $10,000 pledge to the sisters.

To make a donation to the church, you can email Sister Marie Valerie at Or you can contact Fraternite Notre Dame at 773-261-0101, or at 502 N. Central Av., Chicago, IL, 60644. The church's email is

Donations to the church also can be made through PayPal by clicking here.

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