As regular visitors to Chesterton, Indiana‘s European Market (www.chestertonseuropeanmarket.com) on Saturday’s, we’ve seen the pastry stand for years, nestled among the fruit and vegetable stands and directly across from the cheese stand. It’s a curiosity in the heat of summer, staffed by a nun in full black habit and displaying an array of delicious French pastries, brioche, croissants, fruit tarts and the like. When we passed by the stand and my kids asked, “Who is that nun?” I said the first thing that came to mind, “Oh, why that’s Sister Mary Pastry,” and immediately felt the heavy burden of Catholic guilt for making fun of a nun in full habit. The name stuck.
When we visited the market last, I brought Mack my older son who usually prefers to sleep in on Saturday mornings. As we passed the pastry stand, he paused to inspect the goodies and that’s when we realized that Sister Mary Pastry was French but spoke English well. Excited, Mack turned to me and said, “Mom, speak to her in French.” I hesitated, not wanting to pull out my limited French from study abroad in Paris and Aix-en-Provence from years ago.
“Oh, you speak French?” Sister smiled and we began a conversation in mixed French and English. “How did you come to sell pastries at the market?” I asked. Sister’s story unfolded. Fraternite Notre Dame (www.fraternitenortredame.org), a French-based order with a mission of serving the poor, has its mother house in Chicago’s underserved Austin neighborhood. As a way to raise funds for the order, the nuns began baking pastries to sell in the Chicagoland area. The proceeds support their soup kitchen and other ministries for the poor.
Jean Marie, the order’s bishop, is a mystic with internal stigmata. Sister told me that in 1977, the Virgin Mary appeared to Jean Marie with spiritual messages to pass along to the faithful. Now, on the 14th of every month, the Bishop celebrates the Mass of the Apparition at 5 a.m. at their Chicago church, 502 N. Central Avenue. During the mass, Virgin Mary appears to the Bishop, delivering messages, graces and often miraculous healings.
“Would you like to come to our mass?” Sister asked me. “Please come. You would like it.”
The next mass is July 14th. I plan to attend.