If you resolved in this New Year to cook more at home and are looking for new recipes, St. Joseph’s Church and Shrine, 610 6th St., Gretna, might have just what you're looking for.
The West Bank church is selling “The Mother Church Cookbook” to raise money for a much-needed church renovation. The book sells for $25, and all proceeds will go toward the church, which was built in 1926.
Helen Williams, who chairs the fundraising committee for the renovation, came up with the idea for the cookbook.
“For many years, we had been selling a small book of St. Joseph altar recipes at our altar,” Williams said. “I saw a cookbook as a possibility to have as a fundraiser for the restoration but also as something the parishioners could get behind.”
The nearly 500 recipes in the book include chapters on appetizers, dips, soups, salads, beverages, entrees, sides and desserts. There are also sections entitled “Gretna Restaurants, Then and Now” and “St. Joseph Altars, Then and Now.”
And in addition to recipes from St. Joseph parishioners, public officials, local residents and clergy members submitted recipes.
“The parishioners contributed the most recipes, and there are also recipes from every public official relating to Gretna, including the mayor, police chief, fire chief, all city council persons, State Rep. Joe Marino and Jefferson Parish Councilman Ricky Templet,” Williams said.
A thousand cookbooks were printed this past March, just in time for the parish’s annual St. Joseph Altar on March 19. More than 800 copies sold, and Williams said 1,000 more books were ordered.
The church renovation includes removing and re-applying the protective sealant over the exterior of the building and water-sealing the church. Termite damage in the former school auditorium also needs repair.
St. Joseph’s School closed in the 1990s, and Williams said the auditorium is used for meetings and stage performances. The auditorium is above the cafeteria, which is also used to cook for the St. Joseph Altar.
The Rev. Gary Copping, pastor of St. Joseph’s, said the termite repairs will take about a month to complete, beginning this month, while the church restoration will take a year.
“When we finally got to the point of having half of the money with the hope that the Archdiocese would loan us the balance to begin the project, we got serious with hiring a project manager from the Archdiocese Building Office and as well as an architect,” Copping explained.
They came up with the specs for the project that put the project cost at $800,000.
“The lowest bids that we received put the project at $920,000. This hinges upon what they find when they get to the heart of the restoration. If everything goes as planned, we will be able to pay the project off fairly quickly.
"If it doesn't, the work will be done, but it will take longer. We have $350,000 collected thus far and will receive tax credits on the project since the church is a historical landmark.”
The cookbook title is a nod to the church’s history.
“When St Joseph was erected, dedicated and officially named a parish, the boundaries went from the Mississippi River down to the Gulf of Mexico,” Copping said. “Grand Isle was part of the parish, and all of West Jefferson had St Joseph as their territorial church.
"Over the years, the pastoral care needed for the people living in the boundaries increased, so other parishes were created out of St Joseph, thus making St Joseph the ‘Mother Church Of West Jefferson Parish’ because all of the churches created.”
Copping said the cookbook has been well received.
“It really is a great value for the money,” he added. “These are cultural cuisine works of art that delight the eyes, the palates and the stomachs of all who enjoy New Orleans and Gretna cuisine.”
The cookbook can be purchased online at www.stjosephgretna.com
And you can also purchase it from 9 a.m. to noon Mondays through Thursdays in the church office.
For information, call (504) 368-1313.