Her own movies, including the highly popular "Where the Boys Are," were made before stars routinely could negotiate to collect later royalties, she said, so that's not a potential source of income for the upgrades to the abbey.
The abbey is financially independent from the Archdiocese of Hartford and supports itself through the sale of everything from artisan cheeses and hand-crafted pottery to recordings of its choir. Mother Dolores even recently signed autographs at a New Jersey convention, a rare foray out of cloistered life as a favor for a friend, and one that helped boost the fundraising efforts.
Sister Angele Arbib, a coordinator of the New Horizons renovation and fundraising efforts, said the order is applying for grants and the nuns are trying to spread the word among the abbey's supporters, but are not disclosing publicly how much they've raised so far.
Unlike some orders, the Abbey of Regina Laudis has retained a steady number of nuns and new postulants, including two starting in the next few weeks — but that can't continue if the housing and other facilities keep eroding with age.
"We have focused on building our community, which has been wonderful, but now it's time that we really have to address our space," said Sister Angele, 63, who left a thriving career of managing opera singers when she was 50 to join the order.
"None of this, not one single thing we're doing, is an extravagance," she said of the upgrades. "It's to make it possible for us to grow, for the elderly among us to live with as much independence as possible and to allow us to live together in surroundings that let us continue our service."
Sister Angele said the nuns are not in any imminent danger of needing to move out, though she acknowledges they'd be in dire straits if they had not anticipated the problems early enough to prepare the upgrade plans and launch the fundraising efforts.
As word has spread of their needs, supporters of the nuns and those who've visited the abbey, prayed in its chapel and picked up items in its gift shop have tried to help in ways of their own.
Liz Carpenter, a Watertown resident who owns the Children's Dance Workshop, said its children have raised $600 to help through a raffle. She's been a grateful supporter since the nuns helped her through a cancer battle about 10 years ago and now volunteers to clean the church once a week.
"I wanted to teach the kids that it's important to give back," she said of their fundraiser, "especially for a place that does as many wonderful things as this one does."
Tax-deductible donations to New Horizons may be sent to the Abbey of Regina Laudis, 73 Flanders Road, Bethlehem, Conn., 06751. The order also plans to soon offer online donation services through its website, www.http://www.abbeyofreginalaudis.com.
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