Although Mardi Gras has become known as a rowdy celebration associated with New Orleans, La., the observance actually began as an ancient Christian tradition on the day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. "Fat Tuesday" is the English translation of the French term "Mardi Gras." It was a day to clean out the cupboards and use up the foods that could not be eaten during Lent, when the faithful were to imitate Christ's 40 days of fasting in the desert.
The St. Francis Community is inviting the public to attend the Tiffin version of Mardi Gras Feb. 18 in Elizabeth Schaefer Auditorium, 190 St. Francis Ave. Sister Jaqueline Doepker, community minister, said the festivities are to run 6:30-10 p.m. with Cajun food and beverages, live entertainment, an auction of unique items, and mystery guests.
"I think it's going to be a wonderful combination of having fun and honoring the meaning of Mardi Gras," Doepker said. "This is our first attempt for a campus-wide event. Every entity is contributing in some way."
Proceeds from the event are to go into a fund that will be available to all the ministries on the campus, including the Sisters of St. Francis, Franciscan Earth Literacy Center, St. Francis Spirituality Center and St. Francis Senior Ministries.
Doepker said the CEOs for each ministry are to meet and decide on specific projects, depending on the funds generated.
"We know at St. Francis Home there are lots of repairs that are needed on the building that we can't afford to do out of the operating costs. There are programs that don't pay for themselves at FELC or scholarships that we give. I know next summer we're going to have another camp for the handicapped, and we'll be looking for some help with that," Doepker said. "We'll decide the wisest way to make sure all our sponsored ministries benefit from it."
Randy Carpenter and Theresa Kagy are preparing the food. Wine and beer are to be served and hurricanes - a special Mardi Gras drink made with lemon or lime juice, passion fruit syrup and rum - served in a hurricane glass. Revelers can enjoy roasted Cajun potatoes, beignets (fried dough, similar to fritters and dusted with powdered sugar), crab cakes, pralines, Cajun meatballs, Cajun deviled eggs, chicken, fresh fruit and King Cake. Doepker said the chefs have promised to use mild Cajun seasoning.
"Some of the older folks questioned that because their stomachs can't take the really hot, spicy stuff," she said.
The decorations are to be done in symbolic Mardi Gras colors: purple for justice, green for faith and gold for power. Party-goers do not need to dress formally or wear masks. Colorful beads will be available for guests.
The entertainment is to include six "celebrity" dancers who dance with guests for monetary donations. The dancers are to include "Granny" Doepker, Dr. Jack Felton, Tiffin Mayor Aaron Montz, St. Francis CEO Bob Hausie, Tiffin Tomorrow director Theresa Sullivan and Sister Charlotte Kessler, age 100. The top two contestants will have a dance-off to determine the final winner.
"Our dancing contest will not be like 'Dancing with the Stars.' It won't based on the artistic value of the dance. It will be on how much money each dancer raises," Doepker said.
Sister Shirley Shafranek is in charge of the live auction that is to feature 12 items related to the sisters' ministries or produced on the campus. They include a whiskey cake, an authentic German dinner for six, OSU afghan, pottery, a dessert a month for a year, a painting by Sister Paulette Schroeder, FELC free summer camp for a child, gift certificate for produce from the Seeds of Hope stand, massage, gift basket with a carving by Sister Emily Fox.
Doepker expressed gratitude for the corporate sponsors of Mardi Gras: Linda S. Ritzler, CPA; Hempy Water Conditioning Inc.; Clouse Electric, Ltd.; Old Fort Banking Co.; Jeffrey Jewelry; Quick Tab II; Viewpoint Graphics, Inc.; BJ Pallet; K.S. Wikoff; Lesher Printers; Diversified Graphics Inc.; Tiffin Scenic Studios; Sacksteder Worland Insurance Agency Inc.; The Doepker Group; Lenny and Lynn Clouse, Clouse Construction Corp.; Corporate One Benefits; Zellner Pharmacy; and Tiffin St. Joseph Federal Credit Union. Sponsors still are being accepted.
Tickets are $30 each, or two for $50, if purchased in advance. They can be found in Tiffin at: St. Francis Convent; St. Francis Spirituality Center; Law Offices of Lange, Devine and Claus; Law Offices of Dell Burtis and Anspach; Office of Linda Ritzler, CPA; Knights of Columbus; Tiffin Ace Hardware. Or call (419) 447-0435 to make reservations.
"We've had so much fun planning this. The committee sits there laughing every time we talk about what we're going to do. If the event is anything like the planning, its going to be a lot of fun," Doepker said.