Contractors, community answer nuns' prayers after boilers break at West Side church

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Donations are pouring in for the nuns at Fraternite Notre Dame on Chicago's West Side. After years of service in the Austin neighborhood, they asked for help when their heat went out during the bitter cold.

The main boiler blew two weeks ago. The second failed on Wednesday. With the thermostat in the sanctuary reading 32 and the holy water freezing over, the sisters prayed with gloved hands.

On Friday, those prayers were answered. Not only did contractors get the boiler back up and running, but people gave thousands of dollars to a GoFundMe account to help pay for a much-needed new heating system.

"Christians during Lent need to step up, give something to the nuns that don't have any heat," Paul Bucklaw said.

"They always help the community. For years. So that's why we came. We wanted to help them help others," Linda Jones said.

The eight nuns, who are from France, live and work at Fraternite Notre Dame, which has a soup kitchen for the homeless.

"These are obviously nuns and sisters that do so much for the community. We decided we want to try to do something for them. So we set up a GoFundMe account," Ryan Chiaverini, Windy City LIVE host, said.

As word of their need spread, the GoFundMe account grew.

"I'm very surprised, and it warms my heart to see how people are responding. And they want to help," Sister Marie Valerie said.

Contractors spent the day at Fraternite Notre Dame. They found the boilers covered in ice, but got one to work- temporarily.

"The pumps could be shot. The controls could be shot. Those are not off-the-shelf items, either, so even if we get them a shot of heat, someone might have to stay and babysit it all night," Keith Golz, Spannuth Boiler Company, said.

New boilers could cost $200,000. The sisters have faith.

"Through the nice generosity of everybody because God talks to them. And people are answering," Sister Marie Valerie said.

The nuns began their work on the city's West Side in 1998. Despite the cold this week, they fed hundreds of homeless people, visited the sick, and plan to hold Sunday Mass.

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