Sister Rita, a 79-year-old nun living alone in South Los Angeles, is leading a one woman struggle to prevent the sale of her convent to pop star Katy Perry. After her longtime friend, 89-year-old sister Catherine Rose Holzman, collapsed and died in court fighting to retain control of the convent, Sister Rita is now just one of four remaining sisters of the Order of the Sisters of the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Rita has alleged that the Archbishop of Los Angeles, José Horacio Gómez, unlawfully evicted the sisters and took over the convent, a 1927 villa on a hill overlooking San Gabriel Valley that the nuns of the order bought for $600,000 in 1972 by pooling together their income.
After hearing that Gómez intended to sell the property to Perry for $14.5 million without consulting the sisters of the order, Sister Rita said that she and Sister Catherine instead tried to sell the convent to restaurateur Dana Hollister for $9.9 million over three years. But L.A. County Superior Court Judge Stephanie Bowick invalidated the sale following protests from Gómez, on the grounds that canon law requires permission from the Vatican for sales of church property worth more than $7.5 million. The archdiocese and its attorneys claimed that Hollister had taken advantage of the sisters, and the court ordered the restaurateur to pay $5 million in damages — forcing her into bankruptcy.
“We were never allowed to tell our story,” said Sister Rita. “The jury never heard our story. I would have liked the jury to have heard that we were the ones who asked Dana to buy the property and she was trying to help us out.”
The archbishop has promised to take care of the IHM sisters for the rest of their lives, but Sister Rita says that he plans on effectively stealing the money from the property from them by selling it to Perry. The Archbishop, she alleges, has reduced her living stipend and failed to pay her health insurance bill, resulting in it being cancelled. Perry, too, she added, is not guiltless, and is so “used to getting all she wants” that she’s ignoring the grim reality of the situation.
“To her, money means everything,” said Sister Rita of Perry. “To her, whatever Katy wants, Katy gets.”
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