The Father Mac’s Heavenly Pudding enterprise is operated by the Parish of Our Lady of the Rosary, Alstonville and is proudly staffed by, mostly, volunteers. Proceeds from the Pudding sales help support the activities of the Parish and assist other local and overseas charities.
Our story began in 1981 when it became necessary for the Alstonville Catholic Community to form our own Parish. Prior to this time we had been a part of the Ballina Area the Sisters of Saint Joseph were running our school. It had been considered that the school may be closed because of the lack of students enrolled. However this entire area began to grow considerably, obviously the school had to stay.
Father Darcy McCarthy was appointed our first Parish Priest. He came to us from Lismore where he had been Administrator at St.Carthage’s Cathedral, there he lived with a number of other Priests with all the usual household staff. Here he lived alone and so was able to indulge his passion for cooking. Father Mac (as he became known) inherited what he described as the “worst buildings in the diocese.” Our entire complex was in need of extensive maintenance (roofing was literally hanging off and foundations rotting badly). The children were using one of the garages as a class room. We began raffles, housie, balls etc to raise the necessary funds to commence the much-needed maintenance and to build two new classrooms. At this time we also applied for a Capital Grant to assist this programme. This application was refused and it became necessary to raise our own funds. One of the many fundraising efforts was a cake stall outside the church after each Mass. Father Mac always arrived with many freshly baked goodies from his kitchen, including an ample supply of puddings. As the story goes there was always many more where they came from.
The first year Father Mac cooked approximately 300 puddings. That quantity quickly grew to 11,000. At that time Father did all the work himself, cooking two or three puddings at a time in an ordinary household boiler, getting up several times at night to top up the water.
Eventually funds allowed the purchase of our first industrial steamer (installed on the Presbytery back verandah). The quantity grew to 22,000 with Father Mac still doing all of the work involved in the Presbytery kitchen. He did enlist the help of Kate Craig during her Christmas School Holidays. Kate (an ex-student of St. Joseph’s School) had completed year 12 studies and was waiting for examination results. Also, several other Parishioners had become involved with minor chores. One household was chopping the fruit another gluing labels on pudding lids and assisting with account keeping facilities and others cutting foil to size. (We now buy the fruit by the tonne, so it arrives ready for use, the labels are already on the lids and Ted Bruggy – a valued volunteer – invented a wonderful foil cutter.
By this time (1987) our building programme had commenced and children were now occupying the first, of several to come, new school buildings. The pudding business was flourishing with other schools now purchasing our Pudds to assist their fundraising efforts. Businesses, clubs etc were also purchasing our Famous Father Mac’s Heavenly Puddings.
Parish volunteers arrived to assist with production and one of the original St. Joseph’s classrooms was renovated to become the “Pudding Kitchen “. Under the guidance of Father Mac, a dedicated band of workers arrived at two and four o’clock daily to assist with the production and the business continued to grow. We were lavished with media attention. People were fascinated with the “priest” who cooked puddings. Sadly, Father Mac died with a brain tumour in 1991 and Parishioners elected to continue with the production. (We are sure Father Mac is looking on with great pride and of course the “miracles” will always be credited to him). Our present Parish Priest Father Frank Mulcahy, is not a pudding cook but has always encouraged and assisted the enterprise to become a more professional business. We are a limited company with the guidance of a Parish Pastoral Council and Parish Finance Committee. (Our parishioners together with the entire Alstonville Community support and inspire our work.)
Our Business has continued to grow, we now sell our puddings through selected stores and supermarkets. While our first allegiance will always remain with the smaller fundraisers the supermarkets and stores have made our puddings available to more people at a more competitive price.
Our building programme has moved through several stages with plans for much more in the future. The generosity of parishioners and money from the puddings has ensured excellent education facilities have been made available for our children.
Since our commencement, profits have enabled or Parish to support many projects including a full time special education teacher in the school. Also Father Mac’s has helped in securing a full time pastoral associate who is responsible for a number of programmes being introduced to the Parish including an excellent Adult Education in Faith Programme. Through this, many outstanding speakers have been brought to our community.
As well, the Parish is active in social justice through its Social Justice and Peace Committee and has used pudding proceeds to support many overseas and local charities.
As a Parish we would like to be able to do many other things, your purchase of our puddings is vital to the continuation of Father Mac’s work in the Parish and with new ventures.