For at least 15 years, the parishioners of St. Joseph Catholic Church have come together one Sunday a year to celebrate their diversity by sharing food.
On Feb. 9, church members from 14 different countries stationed booths around the fellowship hall to offer guests a taste of their home countries.
“We have many nationalities at our church,” said Flo Morris, president of the Council of Catholic Women, adding that not all of them were represented at the dinner.
The idea came from a similar event Morris attended while her husband was stationed in Germany. In the late 1980s or early 1990s, she said, the CCW at St. Joseph’s was looking for a fundraiser, and Morris offered to organize a Tasters’ Dinner.
“When we started doing this, we started out with at least eight or nine countries,” Morris said.
The idea was that people from different cultural backgrounds would host a table, donating their favorite dishes and perhaps decorating the table with items unique to their culture. If they have them, some participants wear traditional clothing as well.
Guests purchase tickets at the door for 50 cents each, and exchange the tickets at the various booths for a serving of the homemade dishes.
Countries represented at Sunday’s event included the Philippines, the United States, Mexico, Italy, Colombia, Haiti, Ireland, Vietnam, Panama, Puerto Rico and Costa Rica.
Hilda McCoy has been one of the hosts at the German table for as long as the event has taken place.
McCoy grew up in a small town in the Bavaria, Germany, and said she looks forward to the opportunity to share stories of her childhood, as well as listen to the experiences of others who have visited her native country.
Dressed in a dirndl, she served up helpings of schnitzel, German potato salad, apple strudel and cheesecake.
McCoy drapes the German table with a cloth that has many different crests to show the places that she has been as a military wife.
“There are many military families in our church,” she said. “It is so nice to listen to their stories.”
Kim Klein served bulgogi, kimchi, chapchae and kimpob at the Korean table Sunday.
As part of the Korean community within the church, she said she enjoys the opportunity to fellowship with other church members.
She said she would like to see it grow and involve more people outside of the church.
Morris said that except for a few other area Catholic churches that are also within the Diocese of Savannah, the church doesn’t advertise the event to the outside community.
The fellowship hall can only accommodate about 200 guests, and the event has become so popular that parishioners, and a few members from other churches, quickly fill it. Within an hour, most of the food and many of the people are gone.
“I wish we could open it to the public, but our social hall wouldn’t handle it,” Morris said.
The dinner is the CCW’s largest fundraiser and pulls in about $1,700, which, along with money raised at the council’s annual rummage sale and bake sale, supports a variety of the CCW’s efforts. In the past, funds have purchased tables and large appliances for the church and allowed the council to make financial contributions to the church and to Catholic Social Services, and to set aside some money to help with disaster relief.
Morris said she believes the dinner has brought members closer together as a parish.
“It has helped us to learn a little bit about the culture and foods from other countries,” she said. “Everybody really looks forward to it every year.”