By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
Though she has been a parishioner of St. Mary in Iowa City for almost 70 years, Imelda Goss is no longer able to attend Mass at the church. Father John Spiegel, the pastor, celebrates Mass monthly at her place of residence — Windmill Pointe in Coralville — but she doesn’t get regular interaction with her fellow parishioners.
For her, the cookies youths from St. Mary make and deliver to her apartment each year bring a smile to her face. As she recently experienced the death of a child, a reason to smile was especially needed this year for the 88-year-old. “I appreciate any kind of visitation,” she said, noting that the plate of cookies lasts her through the Christmas season.
For the past 20 years, youths at St. Mary have been making and delivering cookies to home-bound parishioners and to those dealing with the loss of a loved one. Parish Youth Coordinator Patti McTaggart said, “This is our way of reaching out to them as a parish community, to let them know we still remember them even though we may not see them as often.”
This year, youths and their families made about 2,000 cookies Dec. 12-13 in the parish hall. Older youths, along with a few college students and parents, helped out by delivering plates of cookies.
Having been a part of the cookie tradition for 20 years, McTaggart said she sees the youths having fun making cookies and they seem to understand the impact they are making. “One first-grader this year said, ‘We’re gonna make a lot of people happy,’ which is true; they did.”
Along with the much-appreciated opportunity to chat and sometimes sing Christmas carols with the parishioners delivering cookies, Goss said the treats themselves “are very good, and there is a nice variety.”
A number of youths who started out decorating cookies move on to delivery after earning a driver’s license in high school. Among them are Nick Dolezal and Riley Hanrahan. Both graduates of Regina High School and now in college, they still help out with delivery when they can.
Dolezal said, “It started out being something our parents made us do, now it is something we look forward to.”
He said they most look forward to their yearly visit to Dottie Ray, the grandmother of their high school football weightlifting coach. “She is always excited to see us, even though we only see her once a year. She always remembers us. It is fun to see her smile.”
McTaggart describes the cookie project as intergenerational. “We can learn so much from our elders … It is important that (youths) know and appreciate the gifts the elderly provide for all of us.”
Parishioner Laura Felderman said her teenage sons Ben and Noah came home smiling after delivering cookies Dec. 13. “They had all kinds of stories to tell.”
Among the stories was an experience the boys had while delivering cookies to parishioners at Legacy Senior Living Community in Iowa City. When they couldn’t find the recipients, a “really nice lady” helped them. The boys ended up offering her a plate of cookies and gave two additional plates of cookies to non-Catholic residents, Felder-man said. “They thoroughly enjoyed going through and meeting people.”
She expressed pride in her sons for taking initiative to help others. “I know they make a difference in the older peoples’ lives when they deliver cookies. It warms my heart.”
Goss said she always appreciates the cookies – so much so that she plans to offer a scholarship that will allow a low-income youth the opportunity to attend a parish ski trip this winter. “The Catholic youths, I’m very proud of them.”