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Columnist
Sales of French pastries aid nuns' mission work
By Vince Pierri | Daily Herald Columnist

The sisters of Fraternite Notre Dame run a soup kitchen, food pantry and perform other social services in Chicago's Austin neighborhood. A portion of sales from their bakery go to the mission in the city.

 

Vince Pierri | Staff Photographer

Sister Marie of the Gospel, a Catholic nun from France, sells pastries at local farmers markets, including Libertyville. Proceeds from the sales fund the group's missionary work in Chicago.

 

Vincent Pierri | Staff Photographer

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Published: 8/5/2009 12:00 AM

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Early morning sunlight casts long shadows over vendors and their wares at the Libertyville Farmers Market on a recent Thursday.

Perfect midsummer weather draws out a bigger than average crowd looking for locally produced food.

There, among sellers of organic veggies, jellies and fruits, is a diminutive French nun surrounded by loaves of golden brown breads.

Clad in a traditional habit, Sister Marie of the Gospel sells apple tarts, chocolate croissants and French baguettes to early morning customers.

With plenty of "Merci's" and "Au revoir's," Sister Marie's heavy wooden rosary swings from her hip. A three-inch crucifix dangles from her neck.

"People are very nice," she says with a thick French accent. "Very nice. Many of the customers speak French, too, so we talk in French."

A member of Fraternite Notre Dame, Sister Marie is peddling pastries for a purpose, not a profit.

The sisters of FND run a mobile soup kitchen and food pantry in Chicago's Austin neighborhood. A portion of the proceeds from the market are used to fund their work.

FND's "Mother House" is in Chicago, but the group is not recognized by the Chicago Archdiocese.

FND was founded in 1977 after a man named Bishop Jean Marie claimed to see an apparition of the Virgin Mary in little village in the southwest of France. The religious order also has missions in France, Haiti, Africa and Mongolia, according to their Web site.

Sales are brisk this morning. Customers scoop up marzipan pies, mixed fruit tarts and almond croissants. Sister Marie makes frequent trips to the back of her panel van to restock the table. The goodies are baked at the St. Roger Abbey Gourmet & Bakery Shop in Algonquin.

Though she appreciates the business, Sister Marie says the bottom line is not the bottom line.

"We use the money for good causes," she said.