St. John Paul II Catholic Mission in Rutledge, Tenn., hosted a booth called Cooking With Catholics at the Grainger County, Tennessee, Tomato Festival in July as a way to reach out.
The mission was one of roughly 100 vendors at the event, which has been known to draw in excess of 20,000 people to the rural county.
At Cooking With Catholics, volunteers taught classes on how to prepare tamales, tortillas, tacos and beefsteak.
“Participating in the tomato festival is our way to show we’re part of the community and to build relationships,” said Pastor Father Neil Pezzulo. “Our goal was to make friends and build bridges and I think we did. We have already been asked to return next year which is a good sign that we are welcome.”
Before St. John Paul II was founded in 2011, Grainger County had no formal Catholic presence. Now, a new church is under construction to accommodate the mission’s growth.