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Priest shares cooking tips, humor

The Rev. Leo Patalinghug, founder of the “Grace Before Meals” movement, recently shared cooking tips and humor at the 2012 Oklahoma Catholic Women's Conference in Oklahoma City.
BY CARLA HINTON Published: February 25, 2012

The enticing aroma of a pasta dish wafted through the convention center lobby along with women's laughter.

The cooking presentation under way at the recent Oklahoma Catholic Women's Conference included the usual smells and sounds of a fun and informative session, but the presenter was anything but typical.

The chef, wearing his priestly garments and wielding kitchen knives with ease, was the Rev. Leo Patalinghug, founder of the “Grace Before Meals” movement.

As keynote speaker at the Feb. 18 women's conference in Oklahoma City, Patalinghug cooked up both a timely message and meal for an appreciative crowd.

Patalinghug, a faculty member at Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., said he took many of the culinary lessons he learned from his mother to the forefront of his movement to bring families to the dinner table for a fellowship that is both tangible and sacred.

As the priest rapidly chopped onions and shared humorous stories, it wasn't hard to imagine that he had won a steak fajita “throw down” with Food Network celebrity chef Bobby Flay in 2009, that his book “Grace Before Meals: Recipes for Family Life” remains popular or that he is a perennial seminar and conference guest speaker.

But Patalinghug said his “Grace Before Meals” journey was not begun intentionally. He said he was content being priest of a county parish of about 5,000 families in Westminster, Md.

“Jesus said ‘Feed My sheep,' and I had no idea it was going to be with penne antipasto,” he quipped.

He said he attended dinners at his parishioners' homes, but somehow, he often ended up cooking for the families instead of simply showing up to eat. When one of his fellow priests suggested that he do a cooking show, Patalinghug said he thought his colleague was joking. Patalinghug said he didn't know who told his bishop about the talk of a cooking show, so he was surprised when the clergy leader told him he liked the idea.

“Everyone knows there are three forms of communication: telephone, television and tell a priest,” Patalinghug said, shaking his head, causing the conference audience to erupt with laughter.

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