The familiar signs are up, notifying passersby on South Lee’s Summit Road: St. Joseph’s Table is taking place this Sunday at St. Mark’s Catholic Church.
But the 2013 ministry event is special for two particular reasons: This year marks the 40th anniversary of St. Mark’s holding a St. Joseph’s Table, and this year, the ministry is honoring the Rev. John Patrick Eldringhoff, a retired priest with the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph who died last November at age 77.
The Rev. James Taranto will bless the St. Joseph’s Table following Saturday’s 5:30 p.m. Mass. The spaghetti dinner is from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday at 3736 S. Lee’s Summit Road and is open to the public. The cost is $7 for adults and $3 for children ages 11 and younger. A baked goods sale and raffle also will take place, and homemade cannoli are available for $2 each.
This year, volunteers baked and packaged more than 41,000 cookies of 39 different varieties. The event raises about $20,000, and all proceeds go to St. Vincent de Paul, which then distributes the funds throughout the year to those in need.
Parishioners have provided more than 3,500 volunteer hours since preparation for the event began in mid-January.
“They are close, and they like each other,” said Susan Blick, who is now in her 10th year of leading St. Joseph’s Table, of the volunteers. “If something happened to anyone in the core group, everyone would be there to help out. We have gotten some new members this year, and they seem to like it. We’re not a closed group.”
What's kept the ministry strong for 40 years?
“I think it’s a desire for people – especially some of the older people – to do something to help the people in need, especially those who are hungry.”
As laughter fills the background noise Thursday afternoon, Blick added, volunteers enjoy the social aspect: “Some of these people are retired, getting up in years, and it’s a way for them to socially interact with other people – but, the main objective for all of them is to feed the hungry.”
What do they do?
About 25 parishioners make up the core group of volunteers who’ve worked daily for nearly two months, except on days when the Independence School District is not in session due to weather.
Some measure and mix the cookies with a commercial mixer. Many of the men bake the cookies. Pat Montalte, 88, of Independence, comes every day. She rolls, ices and packages cookies. On Thursday, she made bread.
“I think it’s a good thing to do,” said Montalte, who’s given her time to the ministry for eight years. “Everybody’s so friendly, and we have a lot of fun – I know I do. It’s a fun place to come and work. You’ve got to work – it’s not all fun.”
Page 2 of 2 - The next 40 years
“I would hope that it would continue to be as successful as it is,” Blick said, “and that all of the people who work on it will be able to continue to work and have the blessings that we get from it.”
And, of course, St. Joseph’s Table is always looking to strengthen its volunteer base.
“I always say, ‘Come over. You’ll like us,’” Montalte said.