Aubrey Bouillion prepares to bake the cookies for the St. Joseph Altar.
The cookies are decorated as part tradition of the St. Joseph Altar in Erath.
Our Lady Of Lourdes in Erath prepares for St. Joseph Altar; Meet Audrey Bouillion
ERATH — The seventh annual St. Joseph Altar at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Erath will be held next weekend at Pope John Paul II Parish Hall.
The church hall is located at 700 South Broadway Street. Fr. Andre Metrejean, Pastor, will have the blessing of the altar on Saturday, March 16, 2019 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
After a brief ceremony explaining the history and customs of the Saint Joseph Altar, the traditional meatless spaghetti and cookies will be served to all visitors. Visitation to the altar and meals will continue on Sunday, March 17 from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
The St. Joseph Altar was a custom that originated in Sicily, Italy in the 12th century. A severe drought and famine hit the region. The people prayed to St. Joseph to end the famine. After the drought ended and the crops prospered, the people erected altars of food to their patron saint. In thanksgiving, they invited the poor into their homes to celebrate and share their food from the St. Joseph Altar.
The altar is adorned with homemade cakes, cookies, breads, fruits, eggs and vegetables that are donated in the spirit of generosity by many church parishioners. At the close of the celebration of the altar, all remaining food is given to the poor and needy in our community. There is no charge for the meal, but monetary donations are welcome to help to defray the miscellaneous expenses of the table.
Meet Audrey Bouillion – ‘The Cookie Lady’
ERATH — Seven years ago, Fr. Bill Melancon began the tradition of the St. Joseph Altar in Erath.
At that time, most of the people in the community had never seen a St. Joseph’s Altar. Fr. Melancon would make the traditional Italian Fig Cookies from skills he acquired from the parishioners of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Patterson, Louisiana. However, he needed someone to bake the decorated cookies. He enlisted the help of Ms. Audrey Bouillion. Ms. Bouillion, a retired nurse, said that she was surprised because she had never made decorated cookies. That didn’t stop the vivacious Ms. Audrey. She searched YouTube to get recipes on Royal Icing and directions on “how to” decorate the cookies.
Ms. Audrey uses an old family recipe she received from her father’s sister, Aunt Rena Delcambre. All of her beautifully decorated chalice and cross cookies are made following “Nan’s Sugar Cookie Recipe.” Baking and decorating cookies takes a lot of time, so Ms. Audrey begins the cookie preparation a month before the altar is set up. She begins by making the decorations and dough and freezing it ahead of time. Neatly stacked in her freezer are stacks and stacks of Royal Icing beads, crosses, and other decorations. Ms. Audrey stated that she used approximately 15 pounds of flour with 8 pounds of sugar to make approximately 200 cookies. She also makes Williamsburg ginger cookies and sweet dough tarts. Smiling, she said she likes to make big cookies because “that’s what the children prefer.” When asked why she gives a month of her time toward the success of the St. Joseph Altar, Ms. Audrey simply stated, “because I love St. Joseph and I have a devotion to the Holy Family too.”
More cookies are needed to feed all the visitors. If you wish to become a volunteer cookie baker, you can contact the cookie chairperson (Rachel) at 230-4459. Beginning with zero funds, the Saint Joseph Altar relies completely on the generosity of the parishioners and neighbors that bring in all the homemade food. It takes countless volunteers and many hours to construct and decorate the altar and serve the food. For more information on the St. Joseph Altar or how you can volunteer to honor St. Joseph, call the church rectory at 337-937-6888. All volunteers are working toward a common goal of helping those in need in our community.