The women of Holy Transfiguration Melkite Greek-Catholic Church in McLean are rolling out — literally — hundreds of rich homemade Middle Eastern sweets for the upcoming holiday season. The Ladies Guild is currently taking orders for Dec. 6 pick-up. Last year, the bake sale netted the church more than $7,000. Proceeds are disbursed to Holy Transfiguration’s building fund, the diocese, to orphans and to the poor.
“Most church buildings are built on concrete foundations,” said Father Joe Francavilla. “Ours is built on cookies and meat pies.”
In the church kitchen, a team of women sit around a table, preparing each sweet by hand. Long-time Holy Transfiguration members and younger ones are learning to carry on the traditions.
Every year, the demand for the homemade sweets goes up, Joyce Weyrich said. “Most of the young [church] women work during the week, so they come in to help on Saturday,” said Weyrich of Fairfax, who has shared her expertise for the past 30 years. “The old-guard is trying to pass its skills along to the younger women.”
Lani Kanakry chairs the sweets sale. This is her fifth year doing so. She has helped make the sweets, intermittently, for 30 years. It is the church’s major fund raiser, but, she said, it’s more than that. “It’s a coming-together of the community, too, something that unites us,” she said.
“We have women in the Ladies Guild who are not Arabic. They want to learn the culture, to help and support their faith.”
Since Holy Transfiguration was established, the Ladies Guild has run an annual Christmas Arabic sweets sale. From date-stuffed shortbread fingers, called ma’amoul, to baklawa and nut-filled buttery pastry cups, the women of the church dedicate three days each week making and baking treats. Clarified butter extends the natural shelf life but the pastries are frozen as they are made, as well.
For those on sodium-restricted diets, Middle Eastern sweets fill the sweet-tooth craving. No salt is ever used in Middle Eastern sweets. Butter, yes; sugar, yes ... salt, no.
For the date ma’amoul, dates are mashed with clarified butter and spooned on to shortbread dough. The dough is rolled around the date mixture and pinched to hold the sprinkled confectioners’ sugar using a special tool. A package of baklawa is $20; a mixed selection of sweets is also priced at $20. Prices vary for other sweets.
“The ladies have skills they’re willing to share with the church and the community,” said Francavilla. “They said, ‘we can do these things and help our church.’
“These sweets make wonderful gifts. As many as we make, we could sell more. We’re at the limit of how much we can produce.”
Holy Transfiguration Melkite Greek-Catholic Church is located at 8501 Lewinsville Road, McLean. Contact Lani Kanakry, sweets sale chair, at 703-866-1516 to order, or by e-mail at Kanakry@cox.net. Kanakry will e-mail customers an order form if they wish. Orders must be received by Nov. 1. Pick-up Sunday, Dec. 6, 12-1p.m.