Why you want to know Virginia Ricketts: Virginia has been sharing her culinary and event planning talents with Fort Smith’s Catholic community for 32 years. She serves as the Parish Life Commission coordinator at Immaculate Conception Church, preparing food for retreats, picnics, pot lucks, receptions and other events. She is the on-site manager for the Center at Trinity’s retreats. She volunteers at Immaculate Conception School and helps St. Scholastica Monastery, catering its alumnae retreats and other special functions. As the wedding liaison for Immaculate Conception, she makes sure engaged couples have everything they need for their ceremony and that music, flowers, and other details are liturgically correct. She attends and assists every wedding rehearsal and ceremony.
Parish: Immaculate Conception, Fort Smith
Family: Widowed with two daughters, one son and three grandchildren
What feeds you spiritually?
Of course, attending Mass and receiving the sacraments. I grew up in a faith-filled home and was blessed to attend St. Scholastica Academy. My parents, brothers and sisters were some pretty awesome role models. We have been blessed with some amazing pastors and associate pastors at Immaculate Conception, currently Father John Antony and Father Martin Amaro.
How did you get started in hospitality ministry?
My husband Rob became a Catholic in 1986, and the class that entered the Church the previous year is always responsible for the following year’s Easter Vigil reception. I started cooking for the reception in 1987 and began cooking for the parish picnic around the same time and just kept doing more and more events over the years.
How do you get everything done?
I’ll put up a call for help on Facebook and people always respond. I have a dream team that I can call on for the most challenging jobs. We just did the Trinity Gala and my five-person dream team stepped in because I can’t call just anybody to do those fancy desserts. I now feel somewhat comfortable planning and preparing for 700 to 1,000 people.
Tell me about one of your most challenging projects.
A few years ago Father John asked me to make 2,000 cookies for the feast of Corpus Christi. Each round cookie was to be iced with a picture of a chalice and grapes and the words ‘food for the journey.’ The church has a printer that will print icing sheets in color. We designed a round image to fit the size of each cookie and managed to bake and ice 2,000 cookies in one day. We did it last year, too, but we made the cookies a little smaller.
How has your parish supported you in difficult times?
My husband Rob was in the hospital for two months before he died (in 2008). We had a constant flow of support from our family and friends at IC.
Do you ever take a day off from cooking?
We started a family tradition years ago. We attend 7:30 a.m. Mass together every Sunday and go out to a different restaurant for breakfast each week. My sisters join us for Mass and breakfast, too. Now that two of my children live in other parts of Arkansas, there are about 10 of us who get together each week. It has helped us build our faith as a family and gives us all a special time to catch up with one another.
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