For months, the media has sensationalized the sale of the Immaculate Hear of Mary Sisters’ former convent to urban developer Dana Hollister. Los Angeles County Superior Judge James Chaflant ruled the sale invalid July 30.
With upcoming hearings about the future of the convent scheduled this fall, Angelus News gave three of the five sisters who haven’t been heard a chance to speak for themselves.
“I feel that people are more sacred than the ground of the villa,” said Immaculate Heart of Mary Sister Jean-Marie Dunne. “The archbishop has counsel. ... We feel that he knows more about the two people. To me, it doesn’t make any sense — all this hullabaloo about the TV and everything. They don’t represent the Immaculate Heart community at all — they do not.”
The archdiocese initiated legal action June 19 to protect the sisters by seeking to nullify the “unauthorized” transaction with Hollister. In a recent deposition, Hollister confirmed that she took possession of the Waverly Drive property for $100,000 (of which the sisters received only $44,000), and the balance of $9.9 million in a non-recourse promissory note, with no payments for three years.
Sister Marie Victoriano explained that when the sisters amended their articles for incorporation, the rules, regulations and disciplines of the congregation will be a part of the articles of the incorporation.
“That makes the archbishop or the Holy See the only authority for the sisters,” she said. “I think that this should not have happened. The sisters of whoever is informing them do not have a right to sell the property.”
The archdiocese contended that the sale violates the California law protecting the elderly from transactions that are not in their best interest — the five surviving Immaculate Heart of Mary sisters are between 77 and 88 years of age.
Sister Jean-Marie said there was a mix up from the beginning because the sisters couldn’t sell without Archbishop José H. Gomez consent, and neither could he sell without the sisters’ consent.
“So all this wasting of money on lawyers and wasting everybody’s time, I just think it’s ridiculous,” she said.
Because the loan is non-recourse, it does not require payment after the three years, the archdiocese explained in a recent statement. As such, if Hollister were unable to pay the remaining $9.9 million, the only remedy to get the property back would be foreclosure and the sisters would have to pay the related legal costs.
Other points of contention include the archdiocese’s lease of the buildings on the property for the priests’ house of prayer, which has a remaining term of 77 years, and Hollister’s reported plan to convert the villa property into a boutique hotel.
Judge Chalfant set another hearing for Sept. 15 and ordered the lawyers to prepare proposals detailing possible remedies that would most benefit the five sisters. He said that Hollister may remain in possession of the property pending the hearing, but ordered her to pay $25,000 a month rent and stipulated that she cannot sell, lease or modify the property in the interim.
Sister Marie Victoriano would like it to be resolved as soon as possible, and the decision should be respected.
“The Villa is beautiful. I thank God that I stayed there,” she said. “We are all of us sisters about 80, we are a few steps toward eternity. The financial problems we should leave to the archbishop and to the archdiocese. All we have to think of is how our union with our Lord, to pray for the problems of our family, our country and our world. … The greatest treasure — which is eternity — should be foremost in our heart, in our mind, that is it.”