PEEKSKILL, N.Y. – The good sisters of Mount St. Francis in Peekskill are praying that the altar in their chapel doesn’t fall into the basement.
The 86-year-old building has been plagued by plumbing problems and a defunct boiler, says Sister Laura Morgan, the Provincial Superior.
“I think the original sisters brought the pipes with them,” Sister Laura said Monday, ruefully.
Steam leaking from the aging system has rotted the wood underneath the altar, creating a dangerous situation, she said.
Sister Laura said she had to call in the heating company with whom they have a contract, and it was able to re-route the piping away from the altar area so it can be used.
“I couldn’t take that away from the sisters,” she said.
However, that’s only a temporary fix -- the wooden support structure still needs to be repaired and carpenters cost money.
The sisters have been forced to use space heaters in order to stay warm while the altar is in use -- especially now that arctic Canadian winds are slamming the Hudson Valley.
And that’s not the only problem, said Sister Laura, who told a visitor that it was so chilly in her office that she was wrapped up in a thick Irish sweater.
The 4-story-tall mother house, the chapel and the Villa St. Francis, a 29-unit residential wing, are all limping along on three boilers when there should be eight going.
The roof over the order’s archives has been leaking and must be replaced.
“We’re hoping there’s no mold in there,” she said.
About 15 years ago, the international community sold off land to developers who built the luxury townhouse and condo complex, Riverbend.
The money was used for repairs and to renovate a wing of the convent into apartments for women, 55 and older.
But now the boilers, roof, and plumbing repairs could cost them $350,000, Sister Laura said.
The archdiocese, she said, is not financially responsible for the convent, but “has been very worried” about the sisters, who are mostly elderly, and has been trying to help in other ways.
The Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart community gets by on donations, the sisters’ Social Security payments, and a once-a-year fundraiser.
The community was founded in New York City on Dec. 5, 1865, with three sisters.
Later as the congregation grew, the sisters moved their mother house to 250 South St. in Peekskill, where they, friars and friends gathered last year to begin jubilee year celebrations.
While trusting in Divine Providence, they now have turned to crowdfunding for help.
A “YouCaring” internet campaign has not only raised awareness about the sisters’ dire situation, it has raked in – as of Monday -- $103,698.
Other angels have offered help of the non-cash kind, such as labor or materials.
Many of the more than 1,000 “YouCaring” donors have expressed gratitude for the sisters’ decades of good works.
Typical messages included: “May your building be as warm as your hearts,” “Thank you for your lives of giving to all of us,” and “As a 'warm' thank you to the nuns who patiently taught us at St. Patrick's in Yorktown from first through 8th grade. May God Bless you all.”