South Baltimore has ingredients for a faith-filled Christmas

As they stood in the warm, comfortably cluttered kitchen of Holy Cross Church in Federal Hill, filling parchment-paper-covered trays with thick, creamy oatmeal-raisin cookie batter, the four “60-something” women laughed about days gone by.

Parishioners of the Catholic Community of South Baltimore, which includes Holy Cross, Our Lady of Good Counsel and St. Mary Star of the Sea, the women have been baking and selling hundreds of dozens of cookies for the last four years to support the church they love.

“Besides my family, this is my life,” said Margaret Storey, who has been working at the church since she was 9 and started the small group known as “Women of the Cross.”

Faith and commitment run deep at the Catholic Community of South Baltimore – especially around Christmas time.

A former teacher of 28 years, parishioner Pete Bianca has been helping to run the Our Lady of Good Counsel Christmas Bazaar for 26 years.

“A highlight for me is all the people who come and bring their families,” said Mr. Bianca. “We have lots of good food, and Santa makes an appearance.”

The Women of the Cross, who make 3,000 Simon sugar cookies – a recipe from member Mary Jane Simon’s husband, George, whose family ran the former Simon’s Bakery – sell cookies at the bazaar and take special orders. Using real butter – an ingredient they say is a must – the women bake 150 dozen chocolate chip cookies, 55 dozen peanut butter cookies, 50 dozen Italian cookies, as well as an untold number of Pizzelles, oatmeal raisin cookies and chocolate chip cookies with nuts. They even created a “Joseph cookie” in honor of the gentleman who requested that they make a cookie with coconut. The women go through 70-90 pounds of flour, 50 pounds of sugar, at least 40 dozen eggs and use 5-pound boxes of sugar sprinkles.

“We had no idea what we were in for – and not only did it work – but it took off like gangbusters,” said Ms. Simon, who noted that “the key to a good sugar cookie is – the thinner the better.”

Judy Fyffe says she does it for the love of the people who buy them.

“It’s the pleasure of seeing people, from the very young to the very old, eat them, especially around this time of the year,” said Ms. Fyffe. “It doesn’t feel like work because we’re enjoying it.”

She said that she, Ms. Storey and Ms. Simon also clean the church weekly and help with the parish gardens, among other projects.

“For being older ladies, I think it’s through the grace of God that we have the energy to get so much done,” she said.

Crosses are lovingly placed on the top of each $8 tin of cookies, and the women also distribute rosary “survival” kits.

“I think the Blessed Mother would be pleased with our apostolate,” said Ms. Simon.

Catholic Review

The Catholic Review is the official publication of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.