Feeding the Hungry
Geneva’s St. Peter Parish serves steak and lobster to families who don’t always dine in high style.
By Pat Szpekowski, Observer Correspondent
August 3, 2018
GENEVA—More than 300 folks entered the school gymnasium at St. Peter Parish, here, on July 28 in quiet anticipation of a dinner hosted just for them. 
They were food pantry patrons and families served by neighboring not-for-profit agencies such as Hesed House in Aurora and Lazarus House in St. Charles.
Some arrived in their own vehicles, while others came in busses provided by the agencies.
They were all welcomed by Father Jonathan Bakkelund, pastor, on the occasion of St. Peter’s first Community Friends Banquet. 
The idea for the banquet was spawned by a conversation he had with a priest whose parish successfully served a steak and lobster dinner to those in need.
“I loved the idea,” Father Bakkelund said. “It is important as Christians to serve our brothers and sisters. We do so regularly through the food pantry and St. Vincent de Paul (Society). 
“Being Catholic,” he added, “we enjoy feasting and celebrations, but there are many families who aren’t able to regularly enjoy such celebrations. This is our opportunity to treat others to feel as kings and queens and make them feel special.”
Within a month from the time Father Bakkelund expressed his intention in the weekly church bulletin, the parish provided a steak and lobster dinner for area families. 
Generous donations from parish members set the dinner in motion and made it a reality without dipping into the parish operation funds. 
“I deeply believe Our Lord will smile as we do our best to provide a very lovely evening for some of those He holds so dear to His Sacred Heart,” Father Bakkelund told parishioners.
As guests were seated waiting to be served, they were entertained by Father Jared Twenty, spiritual director at Marian Central Catholic High School in Woodstock, who played the drums, and Deacon Chris Lincoln of St. Mary Parish in Huntley, who strummed his guitar and sang familiar tunes. 
The crowd began to sing along and children laughed. Smiles appeared all around as guests looked forward to dinner. 
Rev. Mr. Robert Blood, a diocese seminarian who is at St. Peter’s for the summer, warmly greeted the seated guests.
Behind the scenes, chef Alex Browning, owner of Sanctus Catering in Geneva, was preparing green beans and expertly cooking steaks and lobsters in the school’s kitchen with quick precision. He was assisted by a team of ready parish volunteers. 
Once the entrees were complete, portions were plated and whisked away on carts by even more volunteers who personally served the guests.
Before dinner, Father Bakkelund offered a short prayer. “Dear Lord, please bless this evening and uplift our faith,” he said, and then diners joined him in saying grace before the meal.
Amy Talbott attended the dinner with her daughter Cloe. “The food was delicious,” she said.
Volunteers, including Bea Colletti, a member of the Martha’s Meals Ministry for the homebound, served soft drinks and water throughout. 
“This is a wonderful event,” Colletti said. “We are called to serve.”
Cesar Lopez attended with his wife, children and friends. As he finished his dinner, he said, “This has been just amazing for us.. We are so grateful for this dinner. It was such an unexpected invitation. We thank you for this beautiful special evening.”
The dinner ended with fresh cheesecake drizzled with fruit sauce. Volunteers packed to-go boxes for patrons to take home.
With the success of the first  Community Friends Banquet, the parish is considering making it an annual event.