St. Joseph’s Altar brings parish together 

By Bonny Van

The Catholic Commentator 

By 9 a.m. on Mondays and Thursdays during the month of February, the parish kitchen and hall of Immaculate of Conception Church in Denham Springs is a flurry of activity.  

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Pre-school children take a look at the St. Joseph Altar at Immaculate Conception Church in Denham Springs. Casseroles, spaghetti and other items would also be included to feed a crowd of 750 people.   Photos by Bonny Van | The Catholic Commentator   

 

Each station has an important job: measuring flour, sugar and butter; mixing the ingredients; forming the dough into the shape of cookies and lining them up on pans; and cooling the baked cookies and putting the finishing touches on them with either icing or powdered sugar. This cookie factory is part of the St. Joseph altar and an important part of the lives of the parishioners.  

“It’s brought so many people together, you would be surprised,” said Mary Grizzardo, 94, who has volunteered for the altar since it began 27 years ago.  

“She’s measuring flour for the recipes right now,” explained Rosie Moak, the St. Joseph altar chairperson. “They measure in increments and she had to finish her increment before she could (step away). I run it like a ship. You have to, to do that amount of cooking.”  

Moak had been a volunteer only once when she was asked to take over five years ago.  

“I said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding,’ ” she laughed, recalling how she was handed cookie recipes on slips of paper and the backs of envelopes.  

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Volunteers work in the kitchen at Immaculate Conception Church in Denham Springs measuring ingredients for cookies for the St. Joseph Altar. 

 

Turns out, she was the perfect choice. She set about typing the recipes and organizing them in a large notebook. Each January, she books the parish kitchen and hall, makes a schedule of which cookies will be baked and when and sends a letter to volunteers based on the previous year’s list.  

She also starts stockpiling donated ingredients, including 300 pounds of flour, 250 pounds of powdered sugar, 250 pounds of granulated sugar, 75 pounds of brown sugar, 50 pounds of butter and 100 pounds of Crisco, along with eggs, pecans and figs, many of which she picks herself in the summer and freezes.  

“It’s heartwarming to bring the people together like we do and to work together,” said Moak.  

Henry Pulizzano, who has also volunteered since the altar’s inception, organizes the cooking, from stuffed artichokes and fried cabbage to spaghetti and sauce. Casseroles from parishioners help round out the menu to feed 750 people, who offer donations when they come to eat.  

“It’s good,” said Pulizzano. “Our altar is like a traditional altar. We give the money to St. Vincent de Paul, the youth of our church and Knights of Columbus, for using their facility for the week to cook.”  

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Rosie Moak, organizer of the St. Joseph Altar, checks out the schedule for making cookies. 

 

Putting the altar together involves the work of another long-time volunteer, Mary Toler, and a team of several people. Toler, a former drapery seamstress, said after the color theme is chosen, the process begins of setting up. This year was purple, recycling a massive curtain from the two previous years.  

“People always jump in and help,” said Toler. “We put down the foundation, then we decorate it as it goes along. It’s very rewarding. And there’s so many people working together, it’s good for your soul.”  Two hundred volunteers and 5,000 cookies later, the altar is ready to be celebrated. However, Moak always makes sure to set aside bags of cookies for Father Frank Uter, pastor of Immaculate Conception, to pass out to the sick. 

“Just to see the cookies is a treat; it lifts them up, whether they can eat them or not,” said Father Uter. “It’s a good remembrance that others are thinking about them, about the days they were involved.”  

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Lemons are offered as part of the altar. Moak said many female parishioners wishing to conceive will take a lemon from the altar to eat later. “We have many lemon babies,” said Moak.  

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The recipes of all the cookies baked are kept in a notebook.  

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A table holds cakes in the shape of the rosary as part of the St. Joseph’s Altar at Immaculate Conception Church in Denham Springs. The altar was put together on March 13 and distributed to parishioners and guests on March 14.   

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Vegetable frittatas are prepared for the altar. 

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Haystacks are also among the variety of cookies served.  

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Volunteers cut Italian fig cookies to be baked. The altar features approximately 5,000 cookies.  

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