SCRANTON, Pa. -- Thousands of people will visit St. Ann's Novena in West Scranton this week and all of those people have to eat! The basilica's pastor started cooking up a favorite family recipe a few years ago, and it's become an unexpected hit.
St. Ann's Novena last 10 days. There are several masses held each day and at the end of each of those masses, a few hundred people work their way down to the food stand.
Many of them come looking for Fr. Francis Landry's now-famous clam chowder.
The novena food stand serves all the things you'd expect to find a church picnic. Then there's the menu item Fr. Landry is stirring up in the back -- his famous New England clam chowder.
"We've been here since the beginning, and I've had clam chowder except one night. They didn't have it and I was quite annoyed," said Barbara Kallinikos.
It must be good if they're routinely selling out of soup during what's routinely one of the hottest weeks of the summer.
"It's really good, I've had it everywhere, clam chowder, Boston, everywhere. This is the best," Kallinikos said.
Fr. Landry started serving the soup during the novena as a way to honor his home state of Massachusetts.
"What we do is we make it, heat it, then put it in the soup container so it stays good and hot, and it doesn't stay there very long," Fr. Landry said.
The chowder is as sweet as Fr. Landry, mainly because of one not-so-secret ingredient.
"The amount of caramelized onions that goes in each batch."
Fr. Landry's priestly duties are a bit different during the 10-day festival which draws thousands of people to St. Ann's Basilica but as he says the goal is the same -- feeding souls and stomachs.
"There's such a different way of relating to people when you're doing this kind of thing instead of being behind the altar in church. They're amazed, 'priests do this?'''
St. Ann's Novena lasts until next Thursday and Fr. Landry says clam chowder is on the menu each day.