For many churches, the rituals of the congregation are a vital part of their service. For the past 38 years, St. Patrick’s Church has hosted a ritual that is unlike many others as a way to maintain their livelihood.
On Saturday, the church will host its annual ham and bean dinner that will bring together the entire parish in an effort to raise funds for the vocation of the priesthood and sisterhood for the church.
“Although we might have changed a few things here and there along the way, two things have never changed — our purpose and the recipe for the ham and beans,” co-chair for the event Chuck Mattingly said.
Mattingly said the recipe, now in his possession, was handed down to him after Leonard Makarewicz died several years ago.
“His wife passed it down to me to file after Leonard’s passing,” Mattingly said. “Leonard was one of the founders of the event and it is his recipe that we still use to this day.
“It’s handwritten, and faded and has yellowed over the years; there are even bean stains on it,” Mattingly added. “I’ve made a lot of copies of it, I guess I probably should frame it; it’s that important.”
Though Mattingly may be the keeper of the ham and bean recipe grail, he is quick to point out that the true “bean man” of the parish is event co-chair Henry Perkins.
“Henry has it down to a science,” Mattingly said. “He has been in charge of the ham and beans for the last 10 years and there is nobody better at it.”
Mattingly said Perkins prepares 60 pounds of white beans and 80 pounds of bone-in ham for the more than 400 all-you-can-eat dinners served each year.
Much like Colonel Sanders and his secret recipe for chicken, that is all Mattingly would reveal about the namesake feature of the meal, but he did have a comment about chicken.
“We like our traditions here,” Mattingly said. “A few years ago we strayed from our vegetable beef soup and tried chicken and noodle soup instead.
“Boy, did we find out that that was a mistake,” Mattingly said with a laugh. “It wasn’t that the soup didn’t taste good — because it did — but everyone really said how much they missed our vegetable beef soup and so we brought it back by popular demand.”
Mattingly added that two things the committee has learned over the past 28 years is not to mess with the beans or the cornbread.
Those who attend can choose from ham and beans, cornbread, slaw, dessert and drink, or the vegetable beef soup, ham sandwich, dessert and drink portion.
“Even though we offer sandwiches everybody wants the cornbread,” Mattingly added. “We make an awful lot of cornbread.”
The Herculean task of making enough cornbread starts with 100 pounds of cornbread mix and many caring hands.
“We really couldn’t do this without all the volunteers we have,” Mattingly added. “The whole parish is in on this project in some way and we share in the best fellowship.”
Much like the beans and cornbread, the purpose for the dinner has not changed either in the past 38 years.
“Our emphasis was and remains on vocation,” Mattingly said. “When we started this dinner years ago we wanted to have a way to help young men and women from St. Pat’s and Sacred Heart who wanted to study at the seminary and convents to have a way to afford to do that.”
Mattingly said there was a seminary in Liberty that area youth would attend and proceeds from the dinner would help to offset the cost of books, travel and tuition.
The seminary closed in 2002 but funds raised from the proceeds of the dinner are used to support local programs for area students.
To help raise additional funds, the dinner also features a country store with items that have been donated by the parishioners.
“We have all kids of craft items and donated items that we sell at the event,” Mattingly said. “There is no telling what you might find.”
A handmade quilt has also been donated to the sale and will be raffled at the event.
“I always have enjoyed helping at this,” Mattingly said. “I started out as dishwasher years ago, and then I graduated to busing tables.
“Fifteen years ago they asked me to join the Vocational Committee and here I am today,” Mattingly added. “I think we have something for all age groups and we usually have a full hall during the dinner; there isn’t a lot of down time.”
The dinner will be served from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday in the St. Patrick Parish Hall, located at 415 E. Fourth St. Ticket prices are $7 for adults and $2.50 for children for the all-you-can-eat meal.
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484