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Ladies Guild maintains Lenten tradition at Bradenville church

Rebecca Emanuele | for the Tribune Review - Cathy Zemba, president of St. Mary's Ladies Guild, prepares dough at the first work station along with (from left) Jane Alexander of Derry, Joe Zemba of Unity and Karen Gross of Ligonier.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Rebecca Emanuele | for the Tribune Review</em></div>Cathy Zemba, president of St. Mary's Ladies Guild, prepares dough at the first work station along with (from left) Jane Alexander of Derry, Joe Zemba of Unity and Karen Gross of Ligonier.
Rebecca Emanuele | for the Tribune Review - Sisters Micki Smolleck (left) of Latrobe and Karen Gross of Ligonier line up trays of prepared potato filling.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Rebecca Emanuele | for the Tribune Review</em></div>Sisters Micki Smolleck (left) of Latrobe and Karen Gross of Ligonier line up trays of prepared potato filling.
Rebecca Emanuele | for the Tribune Review - Flo Falat of Latrobe (from left), Micki Smolleck of Latrobe, Karen Gross of Ligonier, Marge Pezzoni of Derry, Betty Siko of Derry and Rocky Wingard of Latrobe fill and seal the homemade pierogies.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Rebecca Emanuele | for the Tribune Review</em></div>Flo Falat of Latrobe (from left), Micki Smolleck of Latrobe, Karen Gross of Ligonier, Marge Pezzoni of Derry, Betty Siko of Derry and Rocky Wingard of Latrobe fill and seal the homemade pierogies.
Rebecca Emanuele | for the Tribune Review - Rocky Wingard (left) and Micki Smolleck, both of Latrobe, work alongside several volunteers of the St. Mary's Ladies Guild to make homemade pierogies on April 1, 2014, at the St. Mary's Dome in Latrobe.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Rebecca Emanuele | for the Tribune Review</em></div>Rocky Wingard (left) and Micki Smolleck, both of Latrobe, work alongside  several volunteers of the St. Mary's Ladies Guild to make homemade pierogies on April 1, 2014, at the St. Mary's Dome in Latrobe.
Rebecca Emanuele | for the Tribune Review - Sisters Micki Smolleck of Latrobe (left) and Karen Gross of Ligonier work as a team to make the homemade pierogies.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Rebecca Emanuele | for the Tribune Review</em></div>Sisters Micki Smolleck of Latrobe (left) and Karen Gross of Ligonier work as a team to make the homemade pierogies.
Rebecca Emanuele | for the Tribune Review - Flo Falat of Latrobe places potato filling precisely into a dough shell.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Rebecca Emanuele | for the Tribune Review</em></div>Flo Falat of Latrobe places potato filling precisely into a dough shell.
Rebecca Emanuele | for the Tribune Review - Betty Siko and Marge Pezzoni, both of Derry and the longest continuous members of the St. Mary's Ladies Guild, use their expertise to inspect and assemble the finished pierogies.
<div style='float:right;width:100%;' align='right'><em>Rebecca Emanuele | for the Tribune Review</em></div>Betty Siko and Marge Pezzoni, both of Derry and the longest continuous members of the St. Mary's Ladies Guild, use their expertise to inspect and assemble the finished pierogies.

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
 

A giant bowl full of butter sticks, two electric skillets heaped with onions and seven huge pots of boiling water all help to fuel pierogi sales at St. Mary's Dome in Bradenville.

What keeps the Eastern European Lenten tradition going are the members of the Ladies Guild, who produce more than 200 dozen of the treats each week, filled with sauerkraut, potato or prune.

President Cathy Zemba said the fundraiser for the Byzantine Catholic church along Route 982 is the guild's biggest annual project, which the group began about five or six years ago. Traditional fasting — abstaining from meat — is observed by church members on Wednesdays and Fridays.

“That's just our tradition, but people love the pierogies anytime of the year,” she said.

The prune filling, known as lekvar, originated when families in that part of the world could cultivate plums to be preserved and stored for the winter, said Monica Petrick, a church member since 1965.

“They started because they had all the available products,” she said. “By this time everything was gone from eating through the winter.”

When the women started the sales — from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. every Friday during Lent, except Good Friday — they lacked the machine to roll the dough or the forms to easily make and seal 18 at a time, said Marge Pezzoni, 82, of Derry Township.

“When we first started this project, we rolled that dough out by hand,” she said. “I taught many of these women up here how to roll the dough.”

Now the well-maintained chain of production also includes Betty Siko, 77, of Derry Township, who makes the halushki.

“We have a lot of fun. We enjoy it,” she said, while loading batches of cabbage and noodles into heated trays.

The group gets a fair amount of regulars who look forward to the sales every year and those who are sad when Lent ends, Zemba said.

“The people in the area just love them (the pierogies),” she said.

Last year, the guild started salvaging broken pierogies and calling them “angels” for sale at $4 for a container instead of the regular $8 per dozen with butter and onions or $7 frozen.

That came from a customer's suggestion, with more “angels” on certain weeks than others, Zemba said.

“I thought they should be called devils” since they don't come out right, she said.

Pezzoni, a member of the Ladies Guild since 1954, said that in decades past the group was a lot larger, helping to support the church at 112 St. Mary's Way, which now has about 120-150 congregants attending on a given Sunday.

She remembers decorating the dome for “snowflake fairs” in the 1950s and '60s, but fundraisers like that have given way to others, including Meals on Wheels, a scholarship program, Christmas food baskets and church improvements.

Pezzoni said she prefers the potato- or the prune-filled versions instead of the sauerkraut.

“The people keep coming back, so they must be good,” she said.

Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or sfederoff@tribweb.com.

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