Cooking with Christ in the convent

By Mary Brazell, 28 June 2020
Sr Margaret Kozub CSFN is recorded preparing a meal for the Convent Cooking YouTube series. Image: Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth/Supplied.


Move over Curtis Stone, there’s a new bunch of chefs creating meals for $10 or less.

The Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth (CSFN) have decided to take their faith into the kitchen to create some joy and love in their community and the wider community.

“For a long time, I really wanted to show people that we Sisters need to take care of our daily life as any average family,” Sr Grace Roclawska CSFN, Provincial Treasurer and Program and Engagement Representative at the Institute for Mission, told Catholic Outlook.

“We do not have cooks in our communities, as it was in the older days. We all share our house chores.

“We need to prepare and cook our meals to make sure our community eats nutritional meals to keep us healthy for our ministry life,” Sr Grace said.

Sr Sophie Boffa, one of the newest members of the congregation, and a chaplain to Westmead and Blacktown Hospitals added, “cooking is super important in the community. It’s most of all a way we can show love and care for our sisters.”

What started off as a ‘one woman show’ evolved into an online cooking series, with step-by-step instructional videos and recipes uploaded to YouTube and their provincial website.

Sr Sophie Boffa CSFN edits video footage for the Convent Cooking YouTube series. Image: Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth/Supplied.

The videos may not be shot in a fancy studio kitchen, nor have time pressures that would be seen on any cooking show, but they are down-to-earth and modest, like the sisters themselves.

“We were thinking about ways to reach out to our friends and neighbours during Lent, especially as we couldn’t see them in person. Then the idea came to cook and it just went from there,” Sr Sophie explained.

“The cooking videos started in Lent and were published on a weekly basis, showcasing recipes for meatless meals, and continued during Easter, which included recipes for happy, festive meals. We will now start to share recipes for ordinary time,” Sr Grace added.

Creating meals for around $10 provided the sisters with an attainable goal that can be replicated outside of their community.

“Things are getting so expensive these days, and many people find it a struggle to find and cook affordable and tasty meals, especially for a family,” Sr Sophie said.

Sr Grace added, “I love to challenge myself when I cook. I always calculate how much my ingredients cost and how available they are in the nearby supermarkets.

“We wanted to show others that we understand people living on a small budget and want to help them to find yummy food.”

For the saintly chefs who feature in the online videos, cooking brings people together and also has strong ties to their families.

Sr Paula Volchek, Director of Vocations, told Catholic Outlook, “my inspiration for cooking and sharing was my mum, who recently passed away. She cooked very simple food, but she cooked from her heart and everything was delicious.

“Cooking for me is a celebration. Firstly, the process of preparation – planning the menu and shopping – makes me excited. After that, the cooking, smells and taste give me a lot of happiness. When the meal is ready, we gather together and celebrate.”

Provincial Leader Sr Margaret Kozub added, “cooking is an important part of my life and gives me the opportunity to share with the sisters who I am. Many times, I cook what I learnt from my mum. This is also my small way to take care of my Sisters, to let them know I love them.

“Cooking is not about me and my skills, but is about the joy that I might bring to those I share a meal with,” she said.

Living in community with 25 people from five different nationalities provides the sisters with the opportunity to share and try local and international cuisines.

Sr Christine Ramada, a member of the vocations team, explained, “one of the best things about living with sisters from different cultural backgrounds is that you get to try different types of cooking and food from different countries.

“I’d say the sisters I live with are adventurous in their cooking, and every now and then, I get to try new food, which is exciting.”

Sr Rita Apura, Provincial Secretary said, “cooking for my community of sisters is very important when it is done with love.

“For me, it is in cooking that we are not only expressing out gifts and talents, but also sharing ourselves, our culture and allowing us to experience joy,” she said.

When asked if there were any cooking tips they’d like to share, the sisters mentioned loving what you are creating and the joy they experience when they do.

“My favourite quote is ‘food is God’s love made edible’. I heard it some time ago, but cannot remember the author. I truly believe that. Food is a gift which needs to be received with gratitude and celebrated,” Sr Grace said.

“Don’t cook, create! it is fun. Learn from others, learn from your mistakes. Always taste before you serve anyone anything, and never give up.”

For Sr Margaret, she said to not compare yourselves to other cooks, because “every person brings something unique to each dish.”

Sr Rita hoped that people use cooking as a chance to share joy, and not to cook “because you have to or because it is just a duty.”

Sharing joy should also be in what it is you are cooking, Sr Sophie said.

“And as our Sr Grace says, always taste!”

(L-R) Sr Rita Apura CSFN, Sr Grace Roclawska CSFN and Sr Christine Ramada enjoy a meal together. Image: Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth/Supplied.

You can find the who range of the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth’s cooking videos on their YouTube channel, and copies of the recipes on their provincial website.


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