‘Kaffee Klatch’ still brewing

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After every weekday 6:45 a.m. Mass at St. Luke Church in McLean, about a dozen or so people make the short walk from the Blessed Sacrament Chapel to the Flaherty Hall kitchen to participate in a St. Luke tradition that is 50 years old - Kaffee Klatch.

According to Mary Connery, one of the founding members and the unofficial historian of the group, Father Albert F. Pereira, former pastor, made a large pot of coffee after 6:45 Mass in 1965 and invited parishioners to come over to chat.

Parishioner Frank MacDonald would bake bread each day and bring it along to share. His wife, Rosemary, also would make coffee and host a small group around the kitchen island.

At first the group was mostly men who went to work after the social, plus a few retirees.

When Father John Hughes was named pastor in 1973, he continued the tradition, and attendance grew.

"The group attending grew around the kitchen island (with) everyone standing in the same place each day so we knew if someone was missing," said Connery. "If they did not know why they were not there, someone would call to be sure they were OK."

It was during Father Hughes' time when the name Kaffee Klatch was first used. A Kaffee Klatch is a casual social function with coffee and talk. The group even "commissioned" an artist who created a coat of arms with a cup of coffee, cross, chalice and a loaf of bread with the motto "living, loving, caring, sharing."

After Father Hughes left and Father J. Steward Culkin became pastor, the Kaffee Klatch continued. A new, larger kitchen was built with an island that everyone could stand around.

Through the tenure of Father Martin McGuill and with current pastor Father David L. Martin the group endured.

Many of the Kaffee Klatch members are retired from their jobs, but a few younger members show up.

After the long cold winter, snowbird members of the Kaffee Klatch returned to McLean and the daily after-Mass tradition.

Last month, just before 6:45 a.m. Mass, members showed up to make coffee and spread out cookies and pastries before joining about a dozen people in the chapel where Father Jamie R. Workman celebrated Mass.

After Mass, people slowly made their way to the kitchen and gathered around the island. Suzanne Nicholson pulled out her smartphone to proudly show pictures of her grandchildren. Kaffee Klatch had begun, but it's quick. After 10 or 15 minutes, people head out.

Jim Hunt has been coming to the Kaffee Klatch for 30 years and likes the mix of people, calling it an "eclectic group."

Tom Hogan said that Mass and the Kaffee Klatch "is a great way to start the day."

He said over the years, people have died or moved away, but the group has endured.

Robert Reid, 91, one of the founding members, still shows up almost every day.

"I like going to Mass," he said. "This is 35 minutes of goodness."

Not everyone is retired. Mark Choe is a young dentist, who's been coming for two and a half years.

"If I don't come," he said, "I feel I've missed something."

All say that the main reason for the Kaffee Klatch is the Mass.

Milt Werthmann is a retired physician and a relative newcomer to the group. He lost his wife last year and found a home at St. Luke with Mass and the Kaffee Klatch. He said when he goes to Mass he's closer to God - and to his wife.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015