While the event will look different this year, Northeast’s most popular fundraiser is slated for March 19, as in years past.
As previously celebrated at the three Northeast-area Catholic parishes, the Feast of St. Joseph has been celebrated as a two day event, with a pasta meal, special mass, table viewing and baked goods sale, with all donations and proceeds earmarked for those in need in the community.
Last spring, the baking crews at each church were busy preparing for the events when, one by one, the annual celebrations were cancelled due to the increasing spread of COVID-19 as business and churches closed their doors. Holy Cross, Holy Rosary, and St. Anthony’s were suddenly saddled with fresh baked cookies and no event to sell them to the public.
“We sold what cookies we could but we still had a lot left over,” Father Andres Moreno of St. Anthony’s recalled of the dire situation. “Since the feast is intended to assist the poor, we have members in our parish that received cookies, and a portion were also donated to the officers at the East Patrol police station. I [act as] chaplain at the station and the officers were very appreciative to receive the cookies.”
While other area parishes had to make the difficult decision to not hold a St. Joseph’s Table event this year due to social distancing requirements, St. Anthony’s decided to host a scaled-down version to celebrate The Year of St. Joseph, as decreed by Pope Francis.
“We applied with the City Health Department to host our event, just the one day, in our gymnasium,” explained event coordinator Anita Gulotta. “We will direct people to come in one way to view the table and exit a different door. The cookies will be in a separate room, with an entrance and exit. And we’ll have masks and hand sanitizer available as people enter if they need it.”
The bakers, all members of St. Anthony’s parish, began mixing the cookie dough and shaping it for baking at 9 a.m., February 22, with the goal to produce nearly 300 containers holding 2 dozen Italian cookies with colorful icings and flavors, such as lemon and anise. A traditional chocolate cookie, the tatue, is also flavored with cinnamon, cloves, and chopped nuts, while banderas are colored and shaped to resemble a Mexican or Italian flag. A new offering this year will be smaller containers of chocolate chip cookies, for those who are not familiar with the traditional cookie offerings.
With the statue of St. Joseph holding the Blessed Child watching nearby, large pans of cookies awaited icing and packaging in the days leading up to the feast. While the Feast of St. Joseph has its origins in the Sicilian culture of Italy, today the feast is celebrated as a multicultural event. The table will be adorned with traditional foods, specially-shaped breads, cakes, fruits and vegetables. Stuffed artichokes will mingle with foods from other cultures, which will be for sale along with the packaged cookies.
To commemorate The Year of St. Joseph, St. Anthony’s has obtained a new statue of the saint, in which he is laying down asleep. Participants may write down a wish for St. Joseph to help them accomplish on a slip of paper. Traditionally, the slips are placed under the statue, but this year, they will be placed in a basket nearby. Tickets may be purchased to win the statue in a raffle, held the day of the event.
A traditional Italian mass will be observed at 8 a.m. at St. Anthony’s, followed by a blessing of the table by Father Andres. Table viewing and cookie sales will continue throughout the day, until approximately 7 p.m.
St. Anthony’s Catholic Church is located at 309 Benton Blvd. Two dozen Italian cookies are packaged at $15 each, and the chocolate chip cookies are $5 per container.