Nuns, as a rule, aren’t boastful types, but this much Sister Marie Valerie will say about the baked goods she and her fellow nuns sell at two local farmers’ markets: “Everybody goes crazy over the chocolate croissants!”
For more than 15 years, the sisters of the Chicago mission of the Fraternité Notre Dame—a religious order founded in France 40 years ago—have been performing good works in the Austin neighborhood, where their residence, known as the Mother House, is located. They run a food pantry, a soup kitchen, and an afterschool program for kids.
They also bake. To raise money for the Mother House, Sister Valerie and the mission’s roughly 50 other nuns make baguettes, madeleines, fruit tarts, and more traditional French treats and sell them at the Independence Park Farmers Market in Irving Park (3945 N. Springfield Ave., second and fourth Sundays from June 11 to October 22) and at the Portage Park Farmer’s Market (4100 N. Long Ave., selected Sundays from June to October). The business, which is in its 13th year, goes by the name St. Roger Abbey and now boasts two year-round storefront locations as well: one at Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills and another in Wilmette.
The nuns bake all of the goodies out of a kitchen in their order's Marengo monastery. The chocolate croissants are fine indeed, though aficionados tend to go straight for the almond twists and the nest pastry, which cradles half an apricot in its center. They’re nothing short of divine.