HOWELL (3/10/2004) – Open the front door of the St. Veronica Parish Spiritual Center on Hulce’s Corner Road in Howell early any Friday morning in Lent and the good smell of hot soup greets the senses.
As near as Resurrection Sister Valerie Paccone and parishioners Brenda Heffernan and Della Dettling can recall, restaurant size pots of home made soup have been set simmering thusly for nearly a decade.
That’s how long the parish’s popular Soup and Scripture program has been running. Sister Paccone has helped to steer that program from the beginning, as coordinator, and often in the beginning, cook.
It’s no small task to prepare soup for dozens of people.
This year nearly 70 parishioners have signed up for the program which is part of Ashes to Fire: A Process for Lenten, Eastertime and Pentecost Evangelization, a comprehensive approach to these holy seasons.
The program was created in 1996 by the Diocese of Rockville Center with help from John J. Boucher, now director of the Office of Parish Life for the Diocese of Trenton.
The program, with its numerous offerings including seminars, evangelistic mini-missions and Bible studies has indeed captured the imagination of parish faithful this year, Sister Paccone said.
“This is such an active parish and Ashes to Fire is a process which incorporates all we do already and puts it into an ongoing framework of the seasons – Lent, Easter, Pentecost – it’s a Godsend,” she said.
“We’re putting a little fire into it. The Scripture study, led by Father Peter Kochery, is taken from Boucher’s four-week Scripture study on the Gospel of John called Winning by Losing: the Passion and Resurrection in St. John. People are really responding to it.
And that translates into more soup than ever, a fact that makes Sister Paccone and her cooking partners very happy.
As Mrs. Heffernan and Mrs. Dettling stood over the pots last Friday, adding more and yet more beans to the bubbling cauldrons, they stirred the brew and commented.
“People just love it,” Mrs. Heffernan said. “And we love to cook. It’s one of our favorite things to do.”
Mrs. Dettling added: “We really plan the soups we are going to offer. We have Soup and Scripture during Advent too so then we’ll do soups with meat such as Italian Wedding Soup and pea soup.
“During Lent, we’ll make minestrone, cabbage, potato and bean soup. Next week we’ve already planned to have cream of broccoli,” Mrs. Dettling said. “Later on in the month, we’ll have lentil soup.
“It’s a way of sharing our skills and sharing in fellowship and it makes us focus on why we are here,” she said.
In a very pleasant way, they said, Soup and Scripture captures the essence of community.
“I think of the Eucharist which nourishes our souls and the soup which nourishes our bodies,” Sister Paccone said. “Most of the people who attend Soup and Scripture attend daily Mass. So when they arrive here for Soup and Scripture, they have shared Eucharist. Then they’ll share Scripture and a meal. What wonderful nourishment.”
St. Veronica’s Bean Soup
- 1 lb. bean soup mix
- 1 tbs. olive oil
- 1 large onion roughly chopped
- 3 large cloves garlic, minced
- 2 small bunch escarole
- 2 quarts vegetable stock
- 1 tsp. each of such favorite herbs as thyme, rosemary, tarragon, oregano and basil
- 1 tbs. balsamic vinegar
- salt and pepper to taste
Prepare the beans according to package directions by soaking them in water overnight or simmering them in water for an hour, as St. Veronica’s Soup and Scripture cooking team did. Drain the water, reserving two cups, set the beans aside.
In a large skillet, saute the chopped onions in the oil until the onions are soft and translucent then add the garlic, escarole and all of the herbs and heat through for about five minutes. Add vinegar and stir, then add beans, cooking water and stock and simmer for about an hour and a half or when the beans are tender.
The cooking team at St. Veronica’s likes a thick soup but if your version appears too thick for your family’s taste, add more stock or water.