A little piece of Northwest Missouri makes its way to church services all over the country each Sunday.
The Benedictine Sisters of Perpetual Adoration have been making altar bread for more than 100 years. The sisters, located in Clyde, Missouri, began making the communion product in 1910.
The nuns, who came from Switzerland to Clyde in 1874, initially made their living as teachers before realizing there was a need for altar bread in religious communities.
“So our altar bread department is a main income source for the Benedictine sisters, but we also sell wholesale to other religious communities who then resell, and that’s a source of income for their communities,” says Margaret Branner, manager of the altar bread department.
Since beginning the service in 1910, the nuns in Clyde have become one of the largest producers of altar breads in America. The ministry has grown and now produces more than 2 million baked breads weekly.
“We make the hosts that are used during religious ceremonies, Catholic Masses and other denominations,” Branner says. “We make people’s breads that the people consume during Mass, and we make the presider’s bread that the priest or minister will use in Catholic Mass during the consecration.”
The altar bread department even ships to locations outside of America.
“Every couple months we sell to Australia and to England,” Branner says.
While the altar bread department has customers overseas, others are much closer to home.
“We serve most of the churches in this area, we serve about four churches in St. Joseph. Sometimes it’ll change depending on if new pastors come or go,” Branner explains.
The altar bread department in Clyde also is the first producer of the gluten-sensitive breads for those who suffer from celiac disease.
“Here we make white and wheat breads and the celebrant breads and then we also do make a low-gluten,” Branner says. “That was developed here by the sisters in 2003.”