Father Leo Patalinghug, known more simply as Father Leo, loves food.
He loves to cook at his home in Baltimore, even though he's only there a few months out of the year. He loves to travel the country and world and talk about food and faith. He has a podcast about food (called Shoot the Shiitake), books about food, a blog about food and non-profits related to food.
Why the love for food?
"Food and faith go hand-in-hand perfectly," said Father Leo. "And the easiest way to touch people's hearts and minds is to go through their stomach."
Father Leo has been a priest for 20 years, based in Baltimore. For the last 10 years, he has traveled around the country and world to preach the message that food has the power to do good.
"Food is really about bringing people together because we have one thing in common, if we don't eat, we die," he said. "And that's also true for our spiritual lives as well. If we don't feed that, that kind of withers away."
To show just how much he believes in the power of food, he started a non-profit called The Table Foundation . They are working with ex-convicts and using food to show them how to be successful the second time around.
"We say if you have done your penance, you are welcome at the table," he said. "We want to get deeper and help them to understand who they are, grace with the dignity of God, the fact that they have gifts and talents, we want to help them discern that."
There is no better example of this than Steven Allbright, an ex-con who spent six years in prison for assault. He has a culinary and baking/pastries degree from Stratford University and now works for Father Leo as the culinary director for The Table Foundation.
"It's a really rewarding job in that I get the opportunity to do something to give back that was so freely given to me," Allbright said. "And that's to help the next man behind me, the next woman behind me coming out of the prison system."
Allbright also wants to take the stigma out of being an ex-con and being defined by past mistakes.
"That's been one of the great rewards for working with the foundation is the folks that I've been able to meet who have encouraged me along these past few years. Its been amazing," he said.
To say thank you to workers in the culinary and hospitality industries, Father Leo, Allbright and the Table Foundation are hosting Baltimore's first Olive Mass .
It falls in line with other special masses done by the Catholic Church, like the Blue Mass for law enforcement and the White Mass for medical professionals.
Father Leo has done an Olive Mass in New Orleans for the last two years. He said it has a huge impact on the chefs, restaurateurs and hotel workers who attend.
"We had these major restaurants and restaurateurs, literally with tears in their eyes, and say this is the first time the Church has done something for me. Usually they're doing things for the Church," said Father Leo.
"We're not there to be served, the Church is here to serve. And this is a way for us to do something good for them."
The Olive Mass is being held on Monday October 29 at 10 a.m. at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore. Following the mass, there will be a reception and a panel discussion involving culinary experts.
The event is free to attend, you don't have to be Catholic and you are encouraged to register.