Paula Nolan tells the remarkable story of the two women behind Saintly Feasts: food for saints and scholars

EXTRACT:

Imagine if someone suggested that retirement would mean starting a whole new career, and one that would last 22 years! What would you say? Strangely, Martina Maher and Colette Scully’s path to 22 years’ cooking for the Jesuits in Birmingham began with the words, ‘No, I won’t!’.

The authors of Saintly Feasts are not the retiring kind. Martina and Colette, now in their 90s and 70s respectively, are venturing into print and not shy to share a valid opinion or five on how they would like to see things done. So when did it all start? Well, it started at the end.

Martina’s long career ended upon retirement in her late 60s. Shortly aftewards, she was visiting Manresa House one day when Fr Patrick Purnell mentioned the Jesuits were looking for someone to cook Sunday dinners for their twenty-plus strong community. Martina offered immediately to take this on, but Patrick felt that wouldn’t be right at all and wondered if she could ask around. ‘No, I won’t!’ she said. Martina felt strongly that people should be with their family on a Sunday, and as she was a single retired person, family life would not be compromised. Patrick agreed to a trial period and, as Martina says, ‘Well, we never talked about it again!’. She was joined by her good friend Colette, and the rest is history.

So it was that for 22 years Martina Maher and Colette Scully cooked Sunday dinners for the residents of Manresa House in Birmingham, on special occasions cooking for up to 100 people. Both women had attended retreats at Manresa for several decades, including after the Jesuits took over in 1987. They felt they had many reasons to be grateful to the Jesuits, and cooking Sunday dinner could be their way of expressing gratitude. […]

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March/April2019 (issue no.384)


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