History Project – Soup Kitchen by Jane Wick

The second installment of 175th Jubilee History Project, the February 5, 2023, bulletin insert is an article written by long-time parish member Jane Wick. Jane was the evening prep volunteer at the very start of this iconic St. Mary’s ministry.

It all began on a 4 burner stove at 430 E. Jefferson. During my regular Tues. volunteer night, Fr. Tom O’Connor said, “hey, you know how to make soup, don’t you?”

When I said I did, he said, “Here’s my idea.” Thus began the start of St. Mary’s Soup Kitchen.

We started gathering ingredients and putting together recipes-not ever sure of what we were doing. Chickens were boiled and vegetables were chopped at night. Parish housewives came in during the day and transformed everything into soup. Fr. Tom would hand it out at the back door and ask for a critique. “Needs more salt” and “Too much rice” were some of the comments.

Word spread fast and soon people were bringing in produce from their gardens and donating meats. Lincoln National Life Ins. Co. played a big part in getting us off the ground. Their cafeteria manager allowed me to raid the company’s kitchen for empty food containers to help with distribution. We had no budget and Gordon Food Service was not yet in Fort Wayne. Lincoln Life also had a club called “The Committee of 22” helping organizations throughout the city. We appealed to them and were given a large upright freezer for the rectory basement, as well as two institutional sized pressure cookers.

Volunteers were eager to help, and the rectory was busy all hours of the day and night. One of the more unusual donations we received was 1/4 of a freshly killed deer. After soaking it overnight in salt water, it was cut up and put in the soup with positive feedback!

At the time, the rectory had no air conditioning and no dishwasher. As hard as the work was, we all had the time of our lives.

I am happy to have been there in the beginning and grateful to all the support we received to make this endeavor a success.

Jane Wick, December, 2022