Vermont Catholic Cooks Homemade Meals for Homebound Parishioners

“I see cooking as a meditative process. … Food is the common denominator of all people.”

ABOVE: St. Peter’s Church in Vergennes, Vermont. BELOW: Lisa Grover.
ABOVE: St. Peter’s Church in Vergennes, Vermont. BELOW: Lisa Grover. (photo: Photos provided)

Vermont resident Lisa Grover, a parishioner at St. Peter’s Church in Vergennes, may have many of life’s joys and parish duties, but one in particular has gained public notice: cooking for parishioners. As profiled on the website of VermontCatholic.org, Grover helps prepare meals for the elderly, homebound, and sick in the parish. And she has ramped up that service: as director of the youth ministry and faith formation, she involves the students monthly to help make these meals.

Although her father was Catholic, Grover said she did not enter the faith until adulthood, when she met a great Catholic man. “His family invited me into the church,” she said. “I joined RCIA and since then, I have felt a pull to become more involved in my parish.” She noted that when the Youth Ministry needed help, and pulled her in as a volunteer, which resulted in some major spiritual changes.

“That made me much more grounded and peaceful,” she said. “I looked around me and saw I needed to be a selfless person. I can work with teens, and to really bring them into the love of Jesus and of our church.” And what started out with a small ministry has grown over the years, resulting in the teens not only dedicated to Catholicism but willing to spread the news. “I am now at peace with this as what God wanted me to do,” she said.

As a passionate home cook, Grover decided that the food part of her Youth Ministry was a great fit. “I see cooking as a meditative process,” she said. “You can follow a recipe or go off on your own. Food is the common denominator of all people. We all need food and nourishment and it goes a long way.” As a result, Grover wanted the teens to get in solid community service hours and making meals for shut-in parishioners was one way to do that.

Once a month the youth group cooks a meal, packs it up, and takes it to the disabled and shut-ins. That gives them a little boost with home-cooked meals and a short visit from their parish, she noted. The program has been very successful, she added, and the cooking session has become the youth group’s most popular class each month. “They do not realize they are learning, but experience God’s will by helping others,” she said. “We changed up the program this past year, so instead of the parish buying all the ingredients, each youth bought them for each meal and then packaged them and cleaned up.”

Grover noted that a fellow parishioner, Kathy Douglas, keeps a logbook of the meals, the recipes, and what ingredients are used. That way in the future, participants will know what to buy. “When we cook a meal,” Grover added, “we make sure we cook enough for each recipient to have enough for two meals, for a lunch and a dinner. Depending on the season, we may make a turkey soup (one time they made enough to serve 30), or a tortellini salad, a baked meatloaf, or a baked chicken. We even made a lasagna, which was a bit intense. But we try to keep it fun and flavorful.”

Although the youth love the program, Grover is not sure if any want to become professional chefs — although the family of one of the youth raises beef, so Grover and the youngster had much fun cooking hamburger for a Shepherd’s Pie.

Ultimately, Grover stressed, the youth program with its cooking element is really this: “Caring for others — that is our message from God.”

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St. Peter’s Youth Ministry Summer Supper

Classic Chicken Salad

  • 4 cups cooked chicken chopped/shredded (leftovers from a roasted chicken work great!)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup celery chopped finely
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds (optional)

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Serve on a roll, or for a carb friendly alternative a bed of lettuce. Serve cold. Serves 6.

Tomato Mozzarella Salad

  • 4 cups of cherry and/or grape tomatoes (we get our straight from our Youth Ministry garden)
  • 1⁄2 pound of fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Salt to taste

Halve or quarter tomatoes (depending on size). Dice mozzarella in 1⁄2 inch chunks. Toss in a bowl with olive and balsamic vinegar, salt to taste. Chill and serve cold. Serves 6.

Fresh Basil Pesto & Bread sticks

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed (picked fresh from the garden!)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Romano or Parmesan-Reggiano cheese (about 2 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, more to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, more to taste
  • 1 package canned breadsticks, or buy premade from the bakery

Place the basil leaves and pine nuts into the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times. Add the garlic and Parmesan or Romano cheese and pulse several times more. Scrape down the sides of the food processor with a rubber spatula. While the food processor is running, slowly add the olive oil in a steady small stream. Occasionally stop to scrape down the sides of the food processor. Stir in salt and freshly ground black pepper, add more to taste.

Bake breadsticks according to package directions. Serve immediately, serves 6-8.

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