By Tony DeGol
Father Michael Wolfe is a man of few secrets, but when it comes to his grandmother’s legendary apple pie recipe, good luck prying it out of him.
“It involves two apples,” he confessed. “If I give away the secret I’m going to get in trouble. My grandmother will roll over in her grave. It involves a red apple and a green apple. That kind of narrows it down a little bit. Basically very simple ingredients.”
Sweeter than the recipe itself are Father Wolfe’s happy memories of him and his grandma making all those treats from scratch.
He started baking with her when he was only about six or seven years old. She passed a few years ago, but he has carried on the tasty tradition in his ministry.
“All throughout seminary, I made apple pies for the seminarians and professors,” he recalled.
As a priest, Father Wolfe and helpers made and sold apple pies as fundraisers at the previous parishes at which he served or for church-related activities.
Now, as Pastor of Queen of Archangels Parish, which has worship sites in Clarence and Snow Shoe, the annual autumn apple pie fundraiser has become legendary in the Centre County communities and elsewhere in the diocese.
“Last year, we made a record 1,088 pies over 14 days,” he reported.
Beginning in late October and continuing until almost Thanksgiving, a crew of parishioners gather at the parish’s chapel site social hall in Snow Shoe to peel and slice apples, roll out crust, and all the other steps necessary for mouth-watering homemade apple pies.
Like a culinary general commanding his troops, Father Wolfe guides the volunteers through their designated tasks at about 10 different stations in the kitchen.
“Of course this year is a unique year,” Father Wolfe explained, referring to the pandemic. “We don’t have as many helpers as we would normally have, but we have dedicated workers here – dedicated parishioners – who work together to make the pies.”
Sporting masks and maintaining physical distancing this year, the crew – as always – is on a mission.
“This fundraiser helps pay the heating bills,” noted Father. “We have about five or six furnaces we have to manage over the winter, and oil can be pricey at times. The money we raise goes to heating and utilities.”
The pies are $10 each and generously filled with apples.
Various parishes throughout Altoona-Johnstown, as well as organizations like the Knights of Columbus and the Catholic Daughters of the Americas, help sell goodies for Queen of Archangels, for which the parish is very appreciative.
“The Church is a family, the diocese is a family, so every parish is like a member of a family, and so it’s good that we work together,” Father Wolfe observed.
Equally great is the spirit and camaraderie among pie makers like Robert Wilberding.
“We just like to do our part to help the community and help the church,” the Queen of Archangels parishioner said. “It’s one of our biggest fundraisers of the year. We involve people from both worship sites. We do it over three weeks and try to sell as many pies as we can.”
Added Father Wolfe: “Above all, I wanted to do this project to bring everyone together because a parish needs to have events together. Just like with my grandmother, it was a family event, and it helped bring our family together around the holidays – especially Thanksgiving. I figured it’s a great event to bring the parish family together and make it a tradition. It’s never just about raising money. It’s about spending time together with your family and growing as a family.”
Anyone interested in purchasing pies may call Queen of Archangels Parish at (814) 387-6762 or e-mail Father Wolfe at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s Note: Come inside the kitchen and watch the pie-making process at Queen of Archangels Parish on Proclaim! TV on November 15 at 10:30 a.m. on WATM ABC 23.
[Photos: (Top) Queen of Archangels parishioner Tina Strible puts the finishing touches on an apple pie before popping it into the oven. (Inset) Parishioner Robert Wilberding preps apples for the pies.]