The old tradition of St. Kansas City’s Joseph Table restocks the cookie | KCUR 89.3

Before St. Joseph’s Day, the pews at Holy Rosary Catholic Church are filled – but not with people.

Instead, tens of thousands of cookies and decorations are filling the church in preparation for what is supposed to be the first event. Saint Joseph Table in Kansas City.

“The friendship,” said Gloria Pizzichino who is 78 years old, her mother started the tradition in the Holy Rosary more than sixty years ago. “It’s all about our friendship and seeing the people we grew up with because there are years to come. The young, the old – we all know each other and we gather at this time of the year and look forward to it.

Saint Joseph – the husband of the Virgin Mary, the earthly father of Jesus Christ and the patron saint of Sicilians – is very important for people who have Italian heritage in them. Kansas City.

According to the Catholic Church, the first St. Joseph Table (or Altar) originates from a period in the Middle Ages, when the island of Sicily suffered from drought and famine. After praying to Saint Joseph for intercession, the rains came and their crops prospered. To thank him, the village gave food offerings – grain, vegetables, vegetables, fish and wine – and shared with the poor.

In commemoration of the blessing, people prepare tables and food to honor Saint Joseph every year during his Feast, March 19.

That tradition is still evident in Columbus Park, a historic Italian American community where, in the 1960s, organizers of the Holy Rosary said it was the first in the area to bring the festivities of St. . Joseph Table outside the house and inside the church.

Smack in the middle of Lent, the St. Joseph Table has since grown into a weekend fundraiser with Italian cookies sold by the box: thumbs, fig cookies, ravasanie, tri-color, sesame seeds and snowballs.

And on Sunday, hundreds of parishioners and neighbors come out to feast on a Milanese pasta meal that stretches for most of the day.

Savannah Hawley-Bates


KCUR 89.3

The Holy Rosary Catholic Church was founded in 1891. The church began hosting St. Joseph Table in 1960.

Mary Fasone and Rose Guastello were two women who first brought the Table to the Holy Rosary, a community that began in 1891.

At that time, Fasone’s daughters, Pizzichino and Linda Lipari, were 14 and 4 years old, respectively.

“(Fasone) and some of the women in the neighborhood used to have tables in their house,” Pizzichino said. “It was very difficult for people to go from house to house and so some of the women of the congregation gathered and decided to do it in the church. So the ladies all bake their own special cookies and bring them to church.”

When Fasone and Guastello grew old and retired from the Table, Pizzichino and Lipari promised to continue the tradition.

Although Fasone died almost twenty years ago, Guastello died in 2018, and the girls who left Columbus Park, Pizzichino and Lipari return to the Holy Rosary every year. to set the Table in their place.

Set the Table of Saint Joseph

A cake shaped like a fish lying in a box.

Savannah Hawley-Bates


KCUR 89.3

On a typical table of St. Joseph, there are displays of food, flowers, cookies and candles. There will be fish, but no meat on the table, because of the feast of Lent.

Like many religious traditions in the country, the Holy Rosary’s St. Joseph Table – cookie shop and all – was temporarily closed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The city’s lockdown came a few days before the start of the celebration.

“We lost many people and friends and we were all scared,” said Lipari. He is now 68 years old, and Lipari has been volunteering for ten years. “I mean, we were ready to open and we had to close all that year. The table was on, the cookies were done. That was the beginning of COVID, and all the churches said , ‘No, we have to close.’ ”

Holy Rosary missed the celebration of St. Joseph’s Day in 2021 and offered a reduced edition last year. This is the first year that the church has been able to welcome visitors back for the full event – with some changes in tradition.

The high table, full of images, is now in the main sanctuary instead of its prominent place in the neighboring Scalabrini Hall.

Taking up most of the altar of the church, the three-part exhibition, this year is covered with a purple cloth, representing the Holy Trinity. At the top sits a statue of St. Joseph holding baby Jesus. The flour and pasta on the table represent the sawdust on the floor of the St. Joseph.

The boxes are filled with cookies with a name that says Holy Rosary Church and shows a picture of Saint Joseph and the baby Jesus.

Savannah Hawley-Bates


KCUR 89.3

Volunteers at Holy Rosary prepare tens of thousands of cookies to sell for St. Joseph’s Day. The Italian cookies are part of a fundraiser to help those in need.

Fava seeds are placed on the altar for good luck, and the table is full of cookies and bread representing religious images such as the cross, the Holy Family.

Gina Mandacina grew up coming to the Table with her mother and helping out whenever she could.

“I admired these women,” Mandacina said. “I thought they were the end all, be all. When I did things at home, I tried to do everything like St. Joseph Table. Whatever I did, I wanted it to look like something I saw on the table.

Now Mandacina is helping to make sure everything goes right. He bakes sugar cookies in the shape of a cross, which Pizzichino decorates with frosted flowers before placing them on the table – which is decorated with real flowers.

Although the arrangement changes every year, there are still palm leaves and lilies, which represent purity and the season of Easter. The exhibition is a great tribute to Francesca Cuccia, who participated in the celebration of the Holy Rosary more than ten years ago.

“Gloria tells me what color we’re going to be, and then we run,” Cuccia said. “Everything is last minute, of course, because fresh flowers have to stay fresh. (I like) how close it is to put everything together and then be here that day and see how beautiful it is. everything comes together.”

‘Sometimes change is good’

Beneath a painting of Saint Joseph the Elder holding the baby Jesus, a metal table is filled with bags of bread.  Next to the bread are several pints of red sauce and packages of spaghetti noodles.  A woman in blue is standing next to the table, and puts all three things in a package.

Savannah Hawley-Bates


KCUR 89.3

Beneath a painting of Saint Joseph and the baby Jesus, Antoinette Quarrato prepares boxes for Holy Rosary’s Milanese pasta dinner. This is the first time in three years that the church has been able to hold its traditional meal to celebrate Saint Joseph’s Day. But the to-go boxes, a holdover from COVID-19, were so popular that the church continues to sell them.

Although the Holy Rosary ceremony is only held for three days, it takes about six weeks and more than 50 volunteers to put it all together.

By the time the sale began, the ladies had baked over 30,000 individual cookies. Some bring the same Italian recipes year after year, gaining a well-deserved reputation.

“About three days a week you just come and sit down and start talking and rolling cookies,” said Antoinette Quarrato, 80 years old. “If someone sees you doing something it’s ‘No, do that,’ and they’ll tell you what to do.” After you do that for a while, you will probably get used to it and you can go to the kitchen next year or whatever you need. When we walk that day, whatever needs to be done, we will do it.”

Quarrato, the mother of Mandacina, has been surrounded by tradition since her childhood – like many organizers, Quarrato participated in the old school that Holy Rosary has been working for a long time on the other side (it was closed in 1991).

Recently, Quarrato has been stocking Milanese pasta boxes, which began in 2022 when Holy Rosary could not offer their regular meals but wanted to prepare a Sunday meal. The to-go boxes were so popular that the church decided to keep selling them next to the cookies.

Colorful cookies in the shape of a cross, a heart and a grape sit on the boxes.

Savannah Hawley-Bates


KCUR 89.3

Muscardini cookies, with their colorful dough made of crosses and seeds, are filled with figs and ready to be put on the table.

Tina Ciarlelli is 76 years old, a second generation volunteer, who grew up helping her mother, Rosalie George, prepare the famous Milanese sauce.

“We all grew up here, went to school here, got married here, were baptized, everything here,” Ciarlelli said. “This is it. This is where we lived. Although we moved away, we continued to be a part of the Holy Rosary. Once you come down, you never leave. If you have talent, you’re stuck.”

George is almost 97 years old, and while still helping at the table and making cookies, the job of cooking the Sunday sauce has been passed on to Cuccia’s father, Johnny Caracci. Many in the neighborhood say the recipe for the sauce is a closely guarded secret, but Ciarlelli says there is no secret – just different ways of preparing it.

“Everything is the same, but everyone does it differently,” Ciarlelli said. “Everything is good at the bottom. It’s all good. Change is good sometimes.”

The metal shelves are topped with a thousand boxes of different cookies.

Savannah Hawley-Bates


KCUR 89.3

More than 50 volunteers spend six weeks baking famous Italian cookies for the celebration of Saint Joseph of the Holy Rosary. By the time sales begin, they will have made more than 30,000 cookies.

After weeks of preparation, the Table of Saint Joseph will be blessed during mass at 4 pm on Saturday, March 18. on display from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sunday, March 19, St. Joseph.

Cookies are currently being processed and will end on Sunday at 3 pm The traditional pasta dinner, which comes with cannolis and cookies, will be prepared again for the first time in three years in the Scalabrini Hall on Sunday, from 11 am – 5 pm

All proceeds from the event will go to the Catholic Church, which will be distributed to those in need.

“I love the finished product, I’m in awe of the table,” said Mandacina. “Everyone comes and gathers together, eats together – the whole tradition is beautiful. The good thing about it all is that everything goes to the poor. So everyone can be happy and together and we are helping other people at the same time.

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