As printed in the Post-Journal on 10/11/21
Dogs across the nation are now enjoying a locally made treat thanks to a partnership between the Mental Health Association and St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Jamestown.
Father Bernard’s Blessed Biscuits is a program facilitated by both organizations to create handmade dog treats, but also provide workforce development to those who have dropped out of the workforce due to mental health issues and/or addiction. The program is four to six weeks long that allows participants to bake, package and fulfill orders of the biscuits, while also learning “soft skills” such as workplace hygiene and dress, personal finance, workplace ethics and others.
The Rev. Luke Fodor of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church said the program recently shipped biscuits to churches across the country in time for the annual St. Francis Blessing of the Animals.
“We’re creating kind of a socially conscious enterprise that is really not designed to make a profit, but it was designed for two particular audiences: one is conscientious consumers looking for ways to make the kind of world they want with their dollars, and then also for folks who are on the other end and perhaps have fallen out of the workforce due to internal or external barriers, whether that’s chaotic drug usage or mental health,” Fodor said. “In the recovery world, we often say that connection is the opposite of addiction – making people be part of a bigger system is what helps them find meaning and purpose in the world.”
Fodor said the mascot, Father Bernard, was chosen on purpose, due to the sense of healing that is associated with St. Bernards. However, while St. Bernards of old were often pictured with barrels of brandy under their chin, Father Bernard wears a clerical collar.
“The idea is also that we can provide a blessing by simply doing a good piece of work,” he said. “Judaism calls it a mitzvah. In this case, it’s a blessed biscuit.”
Fodor said many churches have an annual St. Francis’ Blessing of Pets, which he thought would be perfect to send free biscuits to churches across the country as a “blessing” for other churches and members in their communities.
The Rev. Tara Eastman of King of Kings Lutheran Church in Liverpool, N.Y., was formerly pastor of The Tree of Life Lutheran Church in Jamestown and partook of the blessed biscuit giveaway with her congregation.
“When sharing Father Bernard’s Blessed Biscuits with our four footed canine friends I told people how this biscuit recipe is a means of healing and connection for people in recovery- as well as those who walk with and love them,” Eastman said. “Talk about a way for one blessing to lead to many blessings. I think St. Francis would be honored with this work.”
The Rev. Michael Way, Christ Episcopal Church, Middletown, N.J., also participated in the program’s biscuit blessing.
“I was so excited to learn about the mission behind Father Bernard’s Blessed Biscuits,” Way said. “As a priest, an animal lover and leader of a parish that is committed to ministering to those suffering from addictions (and to those who support them), an enterprise like FBBB demonstrates how we can be joyful and creative in our efforts to build community, care for the planet and provide practical help to those in recovery from addiction.”
Other churches that received the biscuits included St. David’s Episcopal Church, Wasilla, AK; St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Cheyenne, WY; Trinity Episcopal Church, Baytown, TX; St. Martins in the Fields, North Richland Hills, TX; St. Luke’s Evanston, Evanston, IL; St. Philip’s Church, Rochester, MI; Grace Episcopal Church, Anniston, AL; St. Albans, Chattanooga, TN; St. Michael and All Angels, Sanibel, FL; All Souls Episcopal Church, Miami, FL; St. John’s Cathedral, Jacksonville, FL; St. Luke’s, Salisbury, NC; St. Paul’s, Hanover VA; St. Andrew’s, Norfolk VA; St. John’s Richmond. Richmond VA; Trinity Episcopal Church, Fredricksburg VA; St. Mark’s Erie, PA; St. Paul’s Cathedral, Erie PA; St. Stephen’s, Fairview PA; St. Paul’s, Rochester NY; St. Matthias, East Aurora NY; King of Kings Lutheran, Liverpool NY; St. Andrew’s Yaphank, NY; St. John’s, Cold Spring Harbor, NY; St, James Episcopal Church, Brookhaven NY; Christ Church Middletown NJ; and Grace Episcopal Church, Newton MA.
For more information on the program or to order biscuits online, visit www.fatherbernards.com and www.Facebook.com/FatherBernards. Biscuits can also be purchased on any Sunday at St. Luke’s, which is located at 410 N Main St, Jamestown, NY 14701.