by Joe Bollig
One of the duties of a bishop is to travel hither and thither over a diocese to bless and dedicate many things during special occasions.
Naturally, such occasions call for some form of hospitality, often a reception or dinner.
Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Marion F. Forst, who died 2007, became somewhat of an expert on parish hospitality during his 47 years as a bishop.
You could say that he knew Catholic hospitality from one end of the state to the other, having served as bishop of the Diocese of Dodge City and as auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.
There was one form of hospitality that brought joy to Bishop Forst’s heart: the parish potluck dinner.
The catered parish reception? Not so much.
I know something of the parish potluck dinners of the archdiocese, because I’ve followed first Archbishop James P. Keleher and then Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann all over the archdiocese for more than 20 years.
There is something special about the parish potluck dinner.
First of all, it’s momma cookin’.
The fact of the matter is, 99.9 percent of the food at a parish potluck is made by the ladies of the parish in their home kitchens. These are the same dishes they make so lovingly for their families from tried and true recipes handed down through the generations.
Second, there is variety. Even when two ladies show up with the same kind of casserole, they’re never really identical.
I’ll always have a warm spot in my heart for St. James Parish in Wetmore. After their new church dedication in 2010, they had a potluck where I loaded my plate with three kinds of meatloaf. Each one was different — each one was wonderful. St. James, you rock!
Third, there is the ethnic factor. Sometimes at older parishes that still retain an ethnic heritage, someone will bring a food reflecting that heritage. For example, the potluck dinners at Our Lady of the Snows Shrine on the Prairie Band Potawatomie sometimes include buffalo stew and fry bread. I’ll never turn down a chance to go to Our Lady of the Snows.
Fourth, there is the pride factor. No one wants to plop a so-so dish on the table for everyone to see. There are reputations to be maintained and bragging rights to be captured. Disgrace is taking home a half-eaten dish. Victory, and the ultimate compliment, is taking home an empty dish.
I have been to so many good potluck dinners at so many parishes that I can’t remember them all.
The parish fish fry is an altogether different thing, but I think I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the epic Knights of Columbus fish fry I went to in 2012 at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in LaCygne. Oh the variety! Oh the amounts! The friendly folk of the parish urged me to try everything, and they sent some home with me, too. Bless you, LaCygne parishioners!
The parish potluck causes me to remember the old newspaper adage: Reporters are like stray dogs. If you feed them, they’ll never go away.