Father Joe Carey’s Cookies in Ryan Hall Build Community

Ace Missioning Mass 03

On Tuesday evenings, you can find Rev. Joe Carey, C.S.C., hovering above a KitchenAid mixer churning out dozens of cookies, brownies, and cupcakes for the women of Ryan Hall. He always has a robust group of helpers who buzz around his kitchen, setting timers, icing treats, wiping countertops, and sneaking bites of desserts. The door to Father Carey’s apartment remains open, and while some girls pop in to grab a treat and then disappear to resume studying, others cozy up in his armchairs and savor an hour of calm, community, and cookies.

The weekly gathering began organically. When, in 2009, Father Carey was assigned to be priest-in-residence to the newly built Ryan Hall, he found himself with a spacious kitchen, but no cooking skills. A student took notice and asked if she could teach him to bake. As his lessons progressed, other residents joined, offering their own recipes from home as lesson plans. The group of teachers, and consumers, grew and grew, until FJ’s was established as a weekly gathering of baking and eating open to the Notre Dame community. The name FJ’s is a nod to Father Carey’s nickname.

Treats aside, the event has been a natural way for Father Carey to welcome the women of Ryan Hall, all while respecting their space and privacy, something he was sensitive to after many years serving men as rector of Dillon Hall. The women, in turn, have consistently shown up, which has fostered a rich community.

“It’s just one indication of the hospitality of this community. And the people who bake really feel like they’re serving,” Father Carey told The Observer in 2019. “You know, we talk about developing servant hearts, and they’re doing it for the sake of others. People come in and bake, some because it relieves stress for them, but it feels like they’re really doing something for someone.”

After more than a decade, FJ’s is now a rooted part of the Ryan Hall community and a genuine invitation to the rest of the Notre Dame community.

Father Carey said, “The joy of all this is how people feel good about themselves. That’s what we’re about at Notre Dame: helping our students to feel you belong here, you’re safe here, you can make friends here. It’s part of the Holy Cross tradition, too, to be hospitable and to build community.”