Sister Mary Ellen Backes shares her Lenten reading and a recipe

To help us journey through Lent in 2024, we asked the Ursuline Sisters of Mount Saint Joseph about a favorite book they read during these 40 days, or perhaps a favorite meatless meal recipe. We call this feature “How We Observe Lent.” Each week of Lent will feature a different Sister’s spiritual practice. Our contribution today is from Sister Mary Ellen Backes, who ministers at St. Joseph Parish in Springfield, Ill.

“I use ‘The Little Black Book’ from the Diocese of Saginaw as my daily travel companion during Lent. It offers me six minutes daily for quiet time and reflection on Scripture and Liturgy. I also facilitate a bi-weekly Scripture Study group during Lent. We are studying ‘Angels in the Bible’ using the Little Rock Scripture Study with Father George M. Smiga.

“I also practice reading and meditating on scripture early in the morning when my mind is awake and my heart fresh; in this way I am more awake to recognize God’s presence in the people and events of my day.”

Here’s a vegetable recipe that is delicious and appropriate for a Lenten salad:

1 pound broccoli crowns, cut into bite-sized pieces (I used ½ pound broccoli crowns and ½ pound cauliflower cuts)

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons mayonnaise or vegan mayo

1 ½ tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 garlic clove, minced

1/3 cup diced red onions or shallots

1/3 cup dried cranberries

Sea salt, to taste


Chop the broccoli florets (and /or cauliflowers) into bite-size pieces and any remaining stems into ¼ inch dice. In the bottom of a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, mayo, apple cider vinegar, garlic and salt. Add the broccoli /cauliflower, shallots or onions and cranberries and toss to coat. Pepitas, shaved almonds or avocado all work as add-ins for this crunchy salad.


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