Franciscan Joy: The privilege of cooking for brothers


When I was a postulant back in 1967, living at St. Anthony Friary in Cincinnati, I participated in a year-long cooking class conducted by Br. Andre Poisson, now Father Tom Poisson of the Diocese of Marquette. His cooking class consisted of both lecture time and lots of practicum in the kitchen. We even had a six-week module on butchering! We studied recipes from a huge cookbook written by Br. Herman Zaccarelli, a Holy Cross brother who became the "god" of quantity cooking for religious kitchens. Every large religious house had a copy of Br. Herman’s book enshrined in the kitchen. One of my memories is of a recipe, "Meat Loaf for 500 Sisters"!

I recall sitting in the classroom at Mt. Airy, then St. Joseph Brother’s School, and hearing Andre say, "It is such a great privilege to be able to cook for your brothers." That spoke to me then. It speaks to me now.

I loved working in the kitchen in part because when I was still at home, my family spent a lot of time in the kitchen as both my mom and dad loved to cook. During my 45-plus years of religious life, I have loved every opportunity of cooking for the friars, and the best times for me are the holidays.

Here at St. Francis Friary in Easton, Pa., we have decided as a community to be together on all of the holidays including Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and Easter. We celebrate these feasts with a trinity of events: prayer, a special meal and a movie! After the liturgical events of the day are completed, I head to the kitchen to continue the meal preparation usually begun the day before. Someone from the community decorates the dining room and sets the table while I put the finishing touches on what I hope will be a great feast for the brothers. Seeing them filling their plates and going back for seconds always brings me great joy. After supper, we watch a video in our community room, usually a movie that somehow connects with the feast we are celebrating.

As I write these words in October, I already have the meals for the upcoming holidays planned. The words of Br. Andre still sound in my heart: "It is a great privilege to cook for your brothers."

(Br. Mark ministers at St. Francis Retreat House in Easton, Pa.)

Br. Mark shares three of his favorite recipes on the Friar Voices blog post, "Thanksgiving recipes from Br. Mark"