SCRANTON – With just five days left in the anti-hunger cook-off and fundraising marathon known as Rectory, Set, Cook! the 2023 fundraising total was hovering around $150,000 at press time, with the goal of surpassing last year’s total raised – $171,000 – well within reach.
This year’s all-digital event showcases 24 teams consisting of at least one – but up to five – collared chefs from across the Diocese cooking (or attempting to cook) a specially selected dish or dishes on video. Each $10 donation for a video represents one vote for the participating pastor chef or chefs.
Each pastor chef has been working hard to get out the votes primarily for the purpose of fighting local hunger, given all sponsorship dollars and 50 percent of voting dollars raised will benefit Catholic Social Services’ anti-hunger efforts. The other half of voting dollars raised will stay with the pastor chef’s or chefs’ parish and can be designated toward a priority project or a charitable cause of the pastor chef’s choice.
Event director Sandra Snyder of the Diocese of Scranton’s Development Office is thrilled with the results so far and notes that there has not been a day without donations since the event launched on Jan. 10. Donations have come in at all hours of the day, every day, with the vast majority of gifts from in state but also – so far – representing 27 states. The most out-of-state donations have come from New York, New Jersey, Florida and Texas, Snyder said. Gifts have come from as far away as Anchorage, Alaska, Snyder said, noting the geographic reach really speaks to the generosity of the universal church.
Snyder also said the competition at the top of the leaderboard has been especially intense, with Fr. Jim Paisley, of St. Therese/St. Frances Cabrini Church in Shavertown, last year’s winner, leading the pack at press time, having raised about $16,000 singlehandedly. In second place were Team Bradford – Fr. Jose Kuriappilly, Fr. Dan Toomey and Fr. Shinu Vazhakkoottathil. Following in a very close third place were the retired priests of Villa St. Joseph, whose team consists of Msgr. Jack Bendik, Msgr. Vincent Grimalia and Fr. Charles Cummings.
“This year’s competition has been especially invigorating,” Fr. Paisley said. “As part of the top five, I am in great company with my brother priests who rose to the occasion and succeeded in raising the funds needed to take a bite out of hunger. Those who will benefit by the fruits (meats and vegetables) of our labors are the true winners of the 2023 ‘Rectory, Set, Cook’ campaign.”
Members of the top five teams will receive Master Pastor Chef hats for 2023, which are more about bragging rights and fun than priests competing for valuable prizes, Snyder said, adding that she expects a few come-from-behind surprises. Last year, the 10th-place finisher entered the leaderboard at 11:59 p.m. on the final day, she said, so anything can happen.
Also in the top five as of press time was Msgr. David Tressler of St. Ignatius Parish in Kingston and Holy Family Parish in Luzerne. He baked two pies this year under the watchful eye of his young niece Julia.
“Rectory, Set, Cook! is a great way to help those in need in our communities and diocese,” he said. “It allows our people to see the priests in a more relaxed mode.”
The event also has helped parishes to bond as a family, Fr. Kuriappilly, who cooked several versions of his Indian meal to feed his parish school’s students and teachers, noted.
“Our parish is so happy to be watching videos and tasting new foods and voting for a great cause, to help the hungry and needy,” he said. “This has united us in a very special way and generated much enthusiasm among everyone, especially for our school kids.”
The official winners will be those with the most dollars raised by midnight on Fat Tuesday, Feb. 21.
Votes can be cast on clicking on the Rectory, Set, Cook! icon on dioceseofscranton.org.