March 11, 2016

‘Prepare it with love’: Cathedral Soup Kitchen volunteer’s recipe for life helps nourish the body and the soul

Longtime Cathedral Soup Kitchen volunteer Dee Morley, right, shares a fun moment with Margie Pike, the director of the soup kitchen for the poor that is a ministry of SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

Longtime Cathedral Soup Kitchen volunteer Dee Morley, right, shares a fun moment with Margie Pike, the director of the soup kitchen for the poor that is a ministry of SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis. (Photo by John Shaughnessy)

By John Shaughnessy

Dee Morley is asked to share a defining story from her 20 years of extraordinary volunteering at the Cathedral Soup Kitchen—one story that will explain why the 82-year-old great-grandmother kept returning to make and serve her delicious soups to the homeless people who lined up, hoping to get a hot meal and a warm smile from her.

Morley considers the question, and soon begins a story about one of the frequent visitors to the soup kitchen.

“He passed away, and we didn’t know how to contact his family,” Morley says. “He was homeless. One of our volunteers spent a lot of time working to find out about his family. They were from a different country. She was able to finally track his family down. He had a decent funeral. A lot of the clients and volunteers turned out for it. I thought it was wonderful what she did to make that happen.”

That story is vintage Morley. She turns the spotlight away from herself, even at a time when others want her to be recognized for all her care, compassion and culinary creations for people who often struggle with poverty, mental illness and addictions to drugs and alcohol—people she describes as “brothers and sisters in Christ.”

“People always speak of her humility,” says Margie Pike, the director of the soup kitchen that’s a ministry of SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral Parish in Indianapolis. “She truly was a role model for us about serving the poor in such a kind and gentle fashion.”

Then Pike laughs and adds, “We call her ‘the Energizer Bunny.’ She was just a whirlwind of activity. You would see her bundled up in her coat, running to her car, and lifting the trunk that was filled with hundreds of cans—and she’d be doing it all herself. And she was simply a great cook for hundreds of people. She always wanted us to try new menus. She said we couldn’t keep serving the same thing. She would take stuff home, chop it, cook it and bring it back.”

Recently, the ever-energized Morley decided to cut back on her time at the soup kitchen so she could help care for her 3-month-old great-grandson, who was born with a cleft palate and a cleft lip.

“He’s doing great, and he has another big surgery coming up in April,” Morley says. “I do as much as I can whenever they need help. If he needs holding, I hold him. If he needs feeding, I feed him. He’s precious. He really is.”

Nourishing the body and the soul

Even though Morley still continues to help at the soup kitchen by picking up and delivering donated food items from a supermarket in Brownsburg, Pike and other volunteers recently decided to honor Morley’s 20 years of volunteering by throwing her a surprise party.

The celebration was a rare time for Morley as she was the one being served food instead of serving it to others.

“It was totally unexpected,” says Morley a member of St. Malachy Parish in Brownsburg. “We have a great bunch of gals, and I thought they were just going to have a small lunch for me. There were about 50 people there. It was so humbling. They gave me a chime clock that plays ‘Ave Maria.’ ”

The clock features the biblical verse 1 Peter 4:10 on a plaque—the start of a tribute to Morley: “ ‘As each has received the gift, use it to serve one another as stewards of God’s varied grace.’ Our beloved Dee, thank you for your gift of leadership and service at the Cathedral Soup Kitchen. You have blessed thousands with your ability to nourish both the body and the soul.”

One of the thousands who has been warmed by Morley’s meals and grace is Reggie, a frequent visitor to the soup kitchen.

“She’s a great person,” says Reggie, taking time to talk about her as he ate at one of the long tables at the soup kitchen. “She respects everybody. She does the best she can for everybody. I appreciate everything they do for us. They give us food, clothes. They’re good people. She’s a good woman.”

Morley’s reason for volunteering has always been the same since she started at the soup kitchen 20 years ago: “I could see the need. There were so many people who were hungry. And I was impressed that they were able to do so much with so little. It touched my heart. The people were out of work, out of jail, out of mental hospitals, out on the streets.”

She sighs and takes a deep breath before she continues: “We feed about 100 people a day. They come down, and they have problems. Many of them have dealt with drugs and alcohol. A lot of them are down on their luck. Half live under a bridge. They want to talk to you. You have to be a good listener. You have to give them a little hope. When you nourish their body and their spirit, you give them a way to go on. They can feel the love.”

‘Prepare it with love’

Morley was her usual energized self on one of her last days of serving food at the soup kitchen. She hustled back and forth from the kitchen, bringing salads and desserts that she served with a smile to the men who lined up for a morning feast: cold and hot cereal, and biscuits and gravy, followed by a steaming meal of fish, French fries and macaroni and cheese. Desserts included homemade cakes and apple pie.

“The food wasn’t like that when I first started,” Morley recalls. “A lot of it was leftovers that we had to throw out. The produce, the sweets and the donations we get now are top quality.”

So were the soups she made. She added quality ingredients and her caring touch to her chili, goulash, Mexican wedding soup, “vegetable soup with a lot of meat,” and “clam chowder since I’m from New England.”

“We just don’t throw things together,” says the mother of four and the grandmother of two who was married for 43 years before her husband Thomas died. “If I wouldn’t eat it myself, I wouldn’t serve it. I always tried to do as much as I could nutritionally. It’s just like treating your family to a good, home-cooked meal. You want it to be good, nutritional food and as my girls say, ‘prepare it with love.’ I always add a pinch of love—absolutely.”

She has also savored the goodness of what the soup kitchen and its visitors have added to her life.

“The soup kitchen has kept me going. I say my prayers going in. I ask the Lord to help me to have compassion for them. It keeps me in the faith. It encourages me to give more.”

Morley greets another person in line, extends another bowl to another hand, flashes another warm smile toward someone whose eyes suddenly shine at the gift he has just received.

“I just enjoy life, and I just enjoy helping others,” she says. “I have so much. I’ve been so blessed. The goodness of other people who help out has also increased my faith. It’s wonderful what can be done when we pull together. And we’re all helping out in the name of the Lord. It’s what keeps me going.” †

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