Father Hite serves cocoa

Father Gregory Hite, far right, serves hot chocolate to St. Peter's High School students on Wednesday morning as a salute to the "Cocoa Ladies" dating to the 1930s at the school.

MANSFIELD -- In continuing celebration of this year’s 175th anniversary of St. Peter’s Parish, Father Gregory Hite chose to honor the memory of the “Cocoa Ladies” with a special event for the school students on Wednesday.

Who were the “Cocoa Ladies?”

They were the women of the parish — many of whom had children in school — who, beginning in the 1930s, served hot cocoa to the students after the daily 8 a.m. Mass on school days. Fasting to receive Holy Communion at that time began from midnight the night before so students did not eat breakfast.

Following Mass, students would go to the church basement for hot cocoa that was prepared in the large copper boilers and enjoy toast or jelly sandwiches brought from home.

Father Austin at St. Peter's

Father Austin serves cookies to students during school Wednesday at St. Peter's Elementary.

Later, arrangements by Sister Floriana found students enjoying cinnamon rolls from the historical Stimmler’s Bakery.

With the completion of the new and current high school building, cocoa serving in the church basement was discontinued and small bottles of milk and donuts were made available for the children after Mass.

Much like the “Cocoa Ladies” did years ago, both Father Hite and Father Austin served hot cocoa and juice after students arrived to school on Wednesday. Father Hite spoke to students during morning announcements last week in both buildings and explained the history of the “Cocoa Ladies” and Wednesday’s upcoming special event.

Stimmler’s Bakery is no longer in business so students enjoyed beautifully decorated Christmas-themed cut-out cookies. Joining Father Hite and Father Austin in the serving line were four parishioners whose family history is connected with the “Cocoa Ladies.”

St. Peter's volunteers

St. Peter's volunteers helped serve cocoa to students and staff in a tribute to the "Cocoa Ladies" on Wednesday at St. Peter's Schools.

Melanie Riggleman’s grandmother, Dick Renie’s mother, and Carol Pittenger’s mother and aunt were among those ladies many years ago who helped prepare and serve cocoa as well as wash the cups that were used each morning. Interestingly, when the Leland Hotel changed its china, they donated the old china to St. Peter’s and the cups were used for cocoa.

As a school student years ago, Dr. John Heringhaus was a server at the 6:30 a.m. Mass so he waited around after Mass to join his classmates for the 8 a.m. Mass to begin the school day. He would use that down time in between masses to help the ladies in the kitchen.

As St. Peter’s Parish continues the celebration of the 175th anniversary, other opportunities to highlight the history will be scheduled.

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