SCRANTON – Rectory, Set, Cook! III, an online fundraising event featuring priests from across the Diocese of Scranton, set a record for money raised this year – bringing in $217,715 from 2,586 donors at the close of the competition.

The online contest ran for six weeks during Lent, beginning on Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2024, and concluding on Tuesday, March 26, 2024.

The 2024 winning Rectory, Set, Cook! video was from Monsignor Bendik, Monsignor Grimalia, and Father Cummings at the Villa Saint Joseph in Dunmore.

In all, 37 priests participated in Rectory, Set, Cook! III, filming a total of 30 videos, which were made available for the public to vote for their favorite recipe or video. Many of the priests were joined by guest ‘sous chefs’ which included Catholic school students, faith formation students, parishioners and even three media personalities.

Money raised from this year’s Rectory, Set, Cook! event will benefit anti-hunger and anti-homelessness initiatives of Catholic Social Services of the Diocese of Scranton, while also supporting the parishes of the participating pastor chefs.

“Year after year, people tell us how much they love to see their priest participating in this contest. Whether the pastor knows his way around the kitchen or not, people say they love to see them cooking and raising money for charity at the same time,” Sandra Snyder, Diocesan Director of Foundation Relations and Special Events, said. “This year was particularly fun and exciting as we crossed the $200,000 milestone for the first time!”

At the close of the competition on March 26, 2024, the following five teams had raised the most money and have been named the “2024 Top Chefs.”

  1. 3 “Villans” + A Sister Act: Monsignor John J. Bendik, Monsignor Vincent Grimalia and Father Charles Cummings from the Villa Saint Joseph, Dunmore
    Total Raised: $28,485
    Recipe: Chicken a la Villa (Chicken a la King)
  2. Father Jim Paisley, Pastor, Saint Ann Basilica Parish, Scranton
    Total Raised: $22,192
    Recipe: International Pizza
  3. Father Shawn Simchock, Administrator Pro Tem, Saint Ann Parish, Williamsport
    Total Raised: $18,303
    Recipe: Homemade Meatballs
  4. Team Bradford County led Father Jose Kuriappilly, Pastor, Saints Peter & Paul Parish, Towanda, and Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, Wyalusing (with assistance of Father Daniel Toomey, Pastor, Epiphany Parish, Sayre; Father Shinu Vazhakkoottathil, Assistant Pastor, Epiphany Parish; and Father Binesh Kanjirakattu, Assistant Pastor, Good Shepherd Parish, Drums, and Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Parish, Freeland)
    Total Raised: $14,813
    Recipe: Kerala Shrimp Roast and Kerala-Style Chicken Biryani
  5. Father Kevin Miller, Pastor, Annunciation Parish, Hazleton
    Total Raised: $13,092
    Recipe: Maureen Miller’s Cranberry Walnut Cake

“We are so very grateful to all those who supported this worthwhile cause,” Monsignor Bendik said. “As priests, each one of us is faithful to what our church teaches us about serving others, especially the hungry and those experiencing homelessness. Every one of us has such a commitment to the poor and it has been inspirational to see the community respond to this year’s competition. What a wonderful gift our whole Diocese is receiving!”

In its inaugural year, 2022, Rectory, Set, Cook! brought in more than $171,000. In 2023, the online culinary competition raised a total of $197,000.

A number of community businesses help to sponsor Rectory, Set, Cook!, including the program’s presenting sponsor, Hawk Family Foundation. All sponsorship dollars raised stay directly with Catholic Social Services to benefit area kitchens, food and clothing pantries, and emergency shelters.

Throughout the 2023 calendar year, Catholic Social Services responded to an increasing need in the community.

For example, Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen in Wilkes-Barre served 107,832 meals, the Catholic Social Services food pantry in Carbondale served 22,617 individuals, and the Saint Joseph Food Pantry in Hazleton served 5,369 individuals.

The agency plans to use the money raised from Rectory, Set, Cook! to continue to respond to the community’s hunger needs – as well as to help create a new permanent home for Mother Teresa’s Haven, the emergency shelter for the city of Wilkes-Barre.

“After being nomadic since it began in the 1980s, Mother Teresa’s Haven will soon be located above Saint Vincent de Paul Kitchen on East Jackson Street,” Joe Mahoney, Chief Executive Officer of Catholic Social Services, explained. “The more we can provide services in that location, the better off we’re going to be, the better off our clients are going to be, and the better off the community is going to be.”

Recipes featured in Rectory, Set, Cook! III will be available in a cookbook which is available for purchase. Each cookbook costs $15 and can be ordered on the Diocese of Scranton website ( Cookbooks will be shipped directly to a person’s home upon completion.