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Evansville, Indiana
March 29, 1996     The Message
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March 29, 1996

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The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana Poor Clareswelcome volunteers to bake altar By PAUL R. LEINGANG - Message editor On Holy Thursday Catholics remember in a special way the Lord's Supper, when Jesus took bread and wine and gave them to his disciples as his body and blood. In the parishes of the Diocese of Evansville, the bread that is used more than likely came from the Monastery of St. Clare, west of Evansville in Vanderburgh County. The Poor Clares have been baking altar breads since 1897 -- about 33 million of them a year in recent years. Most of the parishes in the diocese, along with a few parishes in the neighboring areas, order altar breads from the monastery. It is the only source of regular income for the Poor Clares. But after almost a hundred years, the members of the small community at the monastery have embarked on a new course to continue their service. Since early March, volunteers from prayer groups and other organi- zations have begun to offer their assistance on Saturdays. Volunteers come to work and pray with the sisters, whose community now numbers 17 members. Of that number, only seven are able to work at the baking stoves, or "bakers" as the sisters call them. Others in the small community are able to perform the other tasks, such as cutting the round altar breads from the rectangular sheets that come from bakers. First Communion classes often visit the monastery on field trips. As many as 40 to 50 children gather to watch the operation at one time, and as many as four or five groups schedule such visits during some weeks in April. John and Jean Daidson operate one of the three "bak- ers" used for making altar breads at the Poor Clare Monastery. The bakers produce fiat sheets of bread, which must be humidified before individual circles of bread are cut. Bishop Continued from page 1 Deering. On Good Friday, April 5, the bishop will preside at St. John Chrysostom Church, New Boston. The service is sched- uled at 7:30 p.m. EST. Good Friday is observed as a day of abstinence and paschal fast. The paschal fast contin- ues if possible to the Easter Vigil. Bishop Gettelfinger re- turns to Evansville for the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday, April 6. The ceremonies begin at 8 p.m. CST. On Holy Saturday, commu- nion is not given before the Easter Vigil, except as Vi- aticum (for someone about to die). The entire celebration of the Easter Vigil is to take place aRer dark. On Easter Sunday, April 7, Bishop Gettelfinger will cele- brate with parishioners at St. Bernard Church, Rockport, at 10 a.m. Central Daylight Time. Residents of Posey, Vander- burgh, Gibson, Warrick and Spencer counties "spring ahead" to Daylight Savings Time on the first Sunday of April. Residents of all other counties in the diocese remain on Eastern Standard time throughout the year. Sister Mary Martha Bland- ford supervises the altar bread operation -- she has been in- volved in some way with the process since she came to the monastery 51 years ago. The first stoves ran on gas, when Mother Magdalen, the Foundress, established the monastery in 1897. Various kinds of equipment have been used over the years, leading up to the "automatic" bakers in use since around 1968. The current electric bakers resemble waffle irons, but with large flat surfaces instead of the deep waffle shapes. Both the upper and lower surfaces of the bakers have heating ele- ments in them. An operator pours a mea- sured amou.nt of batter -- made from flour and water only -- onto the lower surface, and then pushes a button. The upper surface closes flat, and the batter sizzles and bakes. A timer automatically trips a mechanism to raise the upper surface when bread is baked -- usually after about two minutes. Two of the bakers have de- signs incorporated into the fiat baking surfaces, producing de- signs such as a representation of Jesus as the Lamb of God. The third baker produces a flat, unadorned sheet of altar bread. Circular shapes are cut from all of the bread sheets. One cutter stamps out circles from the entire sheet; other cutters are used for larger hosts, cut out one at a time. Sister Blandford said the vol- unteers who worked March 23 helped bake 631 sheets, which provide the material to make 71,000 individual altar breads. After the Second Vatican Council, which encouraged Catholics to receive Commu- nion more frequently, the de- mand for altar breads rose dra- matically. Larger, thicker breads were requested, as many parishes changed from the small standard white host which melted on the tongue to the newer whole wheat bread which has to be chewed. About three-fourths of the altar breads baked at the monastery are the thicker, whole wheat variety. After the sheets of altar breads are baked, both vari- eties require several more steps before they arrive at the parishes. Before the breads can be cut or stamped out, all the sheets must be humidified to keep them from cracking and crumbling. After the individual breads are cut, each is inspected. In respect for the intended use of the small circles of bread, each one is made as nearly perfect as is humanly possible. The inspected circles are then packed in bags and boxes, to be shipped to the parishes which have ordered them. It's hard work, involving standing and bending and repeated motions over hours and hours at a time. Sister Blandford and the abbess, Sister Anna Scheessele, Wade Funeral Home 119 S. Vine Street, Haubstadt, IN 768-6151 Call about pre-need counseling. Robert J. Wade Alan J. Wade I Jim Cameron pours batter onto the lower altar bread baker at the Poor Clare and his wife, Justine, along with John and are among members of the Christian who volunteered to help the sisters, prayer many parishes in the Evansville are. involved. first discussed their concerns about sustaining the work with members of the Third Order of St. Francis (Secular Francis- cans) -- lay persons who com- mit themselves to a particular form of Franciscan spirituality. John Davidson and Dr. William Schmitt, both of Evansville, encouraged the sis- ters to seek volunteers from area prayer groups for the work. Davidson and his mother-in- law, Mary Lou Kunkel, have been coordinating the work of the volunteers; doing what Sis- ter Blandford calls "the outside work." The Poor Clares themselves live in a cloister, and have lim- ited contact with "the outside." The volunteers who help the sisters do prayerful atmosphere, said. Some of the come from have but who partners for VolunteeI volved since in March, is coy may be getting the The ter known Catholic co And as comes bett women are being of a Poor Clare. Message policy regarding The Message is the official cese of Evansville. The policy of the the rules forbidding 501 (c) (3) organizations in partisan political activity. The Message continues its long-standing ing news reports and commentary about and issues, and about their relationship Catholic social teaching. Political adveising is accepted at the bona fide candidates on an equal basis. Hi-Tech Sheet Residential, Industrial & Installation Sales & 422-9 Operated by DUBOIS MEMBER OLD NATIONAL BANCOgP, YOUR FIVE STAR