A convert to Catholicism, Alexandra Greeley is a food writer, restaurant critic, and cookbook author, who is passionate about every aspect of the food world—from interviewing chefs to supporting local farmers and to making the connection between food and faith
One of four siblings who grew up in a devoutly Catholic household, Father William Schierer is the parochial vicar at St. Timothy Catholic Church in Chantilly, Virginia. And why the priesthood? For Father Schierer, he felt the calling early in his life. “I always thought about what to do when I grew up,” he said. “The priesthood was always on the table. My father often asked me what I thought God wanted me to do when I grew up.”
But as he matured, Father Schierer also played with the idea of following other career pathways. However, he said, by the time he was finishing college, he was convinced God wanted him to become a priest. “But I had to go to a seminary,” he added. “I entered St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Pennsylvania where I studied philosophy and theology. While I was there, I thought, ‘I have to try this and be convinced God was calling me.’” He then felt great joy in his heart. Becoming a priest was a call from God.
And he said that after becoming a priest, his life changed dramatically. “Life is totally different,” he said. “I get the most joy from seeing how God can be working in the lives of parishioners and witnessing the love he has for his people.” As part of his priestly role, he directs or oversees several programs at his parish, from doing marriage preparation classes, to visiting the sick, to interacting with different groups, such as the Holy Hour for young people. “I started the Holy Hours for mothers and children as a way to bring children to Jesus and Jesus to children,” he said. “I lead them in praying in the Adoration chapel for half an hour on the first Wednesdays of the month.”
Because he also grew up in a food-centric household — “My mom has a great love for cooking” — where preparing and sharing meals were daily activities, a regular part of life. “On Sunday mornings one of our routines,” he said, “was coming home from Mass and our father and the brothers cooked breakfast for the family.”
Although he does not cook daily meals at his parish, he noted that his pastor, Father David Meng, invites his priests to enjoy a “family meal” each Saturday evening. “We all can contribute,” Father Schierer said, “but we are providing food and sharing meals to build fraternity… and to bond more over a meal than at a conference table.”
When it’s his turn, Father Schierer does not always prepare favorites. “I don’t have a signature dish,” he said. “I like to be inventive.” In his case that means scanning through online recipes, maybe reading five different ideas and then configuring his own dish. He is particularly attracted to oven-roasted vegetables that can be seasoned many different ways. One of his go-to vegetable dishes is breaking apart a whole head of cauliflower into florettes, then drizzling them with oil and sprinkling them with sesame seeds before oven roasting. “That is a combination of several different online recipes,” he said, adding he will cook a dish once, and then the next time, try different seasonings. “If I don’t have mustard, I will use soy sauce,” he said. “My co-priests like my sweet potato fries but they don’t complain about anything I’ve cooked.”
In the end, Father Schierer noted the connection between feeding people and the idea of sharing meals is so important. “You see in the Scriptures God calling us to the wedding feast in heaven,” he said, adding that sharing food with people you love leads to communion with God.
Recipe — Oven-Roasted Cauliflower with Sesame Seeds (Serves 4 to 6)
As Father Schierer said, “This is so delicious and can be a filling side dish that also has important nutrients like the antioxidants, vitamin C, choline and plenty of dietary fiber. Moreover, it’s an easy and simple dish to prepare and leaves the cauliflower not mushy but slightly softened but still textured.”
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Toast about ½ cup sesame seeds in a clean skillet until golden. Remove from heat and set aside. Take a head of cauliflower and break or cut it into bite-sized pieces. Season it with olive oil (about 1/8 cup but no need to measure), salt, pepper, and seasonings such as garlic, paprika, onion powder, and others. Toss in the toasted sesame seeds and mix well; make sure all the pieces are coated (I use either a plastic bag or a Tupperware so I can easily shake it all up).
Spread in a single layer on a baking sheet, lined with parchment paper of foil to make cleanup easier,
Bake at 425 for about 25 minutes. You can turn/stir the pieces halfway through for a more even cooking but you’re looking for the cauliflower to be browned or caramelized on the edges and the stems to be tender.