By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
OTTUMWA — It’s a longstanding tradition for Catholics in the Ottumwa area to eat a bowl of homemade soup on Ash Wednesday and help college-bound students at the same time.
St. Patrick and St. Mary of the Visitation parishes each host a lunch and supper, with soups made by the two religious education co-directors, Gail Bates and Lisa Canny. Their husbands and volunteers also pitch in. The two parishes share a religious education program, and older students and high-schoolers are encouraged to help serve the dinner of their home parish.
Diners eat for a free-will donation. The parishes combine the donations and add them to a college scholarship fund for high school seniors from Ottumwa and Bloomfield parishes. The soup meals are one of several ways the religious education department helps raise money for the scholarships.
Eligible applicants must demonstrate involvement in parish life. Need is also taken into consideration. Bates, a member of St. Patrick’s, said past scholarship winners have served the parish in a variety of ways. Some help with religious education after they are confirmed, while others help around the building and grounds. Some babysit, altar serve, lector or serve as a eucharistic minister. “They just need to have involvement. We even count helping at the soup suppers!”