Tasty treats help church, charity
Sister Marie Celine adjusts a tray of chocolates for sale at St. Roger Abbey French Gourmet Patisserie at Westfield Hawthorne Mall. | Michelle LaVigne ~ Sun-Times Media
Updated: December 12, 2012 4:23PM
VERNON HILLS — Being generous this holiday season can be sweeter than just giving change to the bell-ringing Santas.
St. Roger Abbey French Gourmet Patisserie opened in Westfield Hawthorne Mall, and the Chicago-area nuns bake for charity.
The store, located on the upper level outside Sears, offers a variety of ice cream, cookies, coffee, soup and pastries for shoppers who have an uncontrollable sweet tooth or simply need a break.
From beginning to end, the entire operation is done by nuns who belong to Fraternite Notre Dame, a church located at 502 North Central Ave., in Chicago.
Nuns cook the food at a kitchen in Marengo and drive an hour to the pastry shop in Vernon Hills every day. Nuns at the Chicago church manage the finances and allocate proceeds to missionary projects or local efforts with homeless people.
“We devoted our lives to God,” Sister Marie of the Gospel said. “We love what we do because we’re serving God through these needy people. We always say, ‘God loves the poor and anyone who helps them.’”
The church provides lunch to homeless people everyday, a food pantry every Wednesday and nuns or church founder Bishop John Marie routinely roam the streets to meet new people and learn of their needs.
On an individual basis, the church networks with its members or local businesses to help get jobs for the homeless. If someone gets an interview, the church will help get nicer clothes and a shower for that person.
Earlier this year, a 40-year-old man came to the soup kitchen after hours and Sister Marie of the Gospel thought he needed emergency food. Instead, he said, “Thank you.” The man had just been hired for a job and was grateful for the two years worth of lunches.
“The homeless sometimes look mean, but they look that way because human emotions are painful when everything they had was lost,” Sister Marie of the Gospel said. “Having a constant in their lives makes a difference. For that man, lunch was one less thing standing in his way. When you have nothing, it takes a lot of time and energy to do even the simple things.”
Globally, nuns from Fraternite Notre Dame work in impoverished areas of Mongolia, Haiti and Niger.
Fraternite Notre Dame was founded in 1971 in France and opened a church in New York in 1990. The Chicago church opened in 1997, followed by a San Francisco church in 2003. The church has 50 nuns in Chicago and 150 worldwide.
Sister Marie Valerie said the pastry shop came to fruition a few years go because donations were no longer meeting the needs of their mission.
To get more visibility, St. Roger Abbey also became a member of the GLMV Chamber of Commerce.
Carol Levin, the chamber’s director of public relations and marketing, said St. Roger Abbey is one of several nonprofits members but the only one with a business model.
“Organizations like Lambs Farm and the American Cancer Society do events or try and attract people somewhere,” Levin said. “St. Roger Abbey is unique because they sought out a shopping demographic and delivered themselves by opening in a high-traffic area.”
The pastry shop is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Customers can order in bulk by calling 847-367-6077.