April 3, 2020 // Diocese

Before suspension of Lenten fish fries, fellowship and fun were their primary blessings

Fish fries have traditionally been a way for parishes to raise funds for projects and activities or to help others. During the last several years, however, there seems to have been a shift from this purpose in offering the public meals. The new purpose of the get-togethers has become fellowship.

St. Joseph Parish, Roanoke, offers a fish fry each year on or near St. Patrick’s Day at the local American Legion. The holiday gives the dinner a fun theme. Pat Mattes and several subcoordinators from the parish Men’s Group pitch in to help plan the event, and other volunteers prep, cook and serve the food and drinks. “It’s not intentionally run as a fundraiser, but it does raise funds. It’s for fellowship and community visibility … plus, it’s fun for the volunteers to work together,” said Mattes.

Diane Banic, secretary at St. Dominic Parish in Bremen, described her parish’s annual fish fry as “festive.” “We’ve been holding this event for 20-plus years,” she said. Volunteers work as servers and confirmation students earn hours by bussing tables and resetting them for the next guest. The Tyner Odd Fellows prepare the fish and parishioners also contribute by donating baked goods.

The money raised goes to support whatever the church needs, but the most important aspect, said Banic, is that it is a community event.

Joe Romie
Parishes and diners alike look forward to the return of fish fries after pandemic restrictions are relaxed — and definately during Lent 2021.

“Part of the definition of the church is to reach out to non-Catholics,” said Father Dale Bauman, pastor of St. Joseph Parish, Roanoke. “It’s not completely about the money, it brings people together as a whole community.”

Jennifer Girardot and her husband, Jay, are members of St. Aloysius Parish in Yoder and the coordinators of their fish fry. According to Jennifer, “People really enjoy our fish fry because we make our own cheesy potatoes and coleslaw and we have many cookies, brownies and other desserts.”

“They come for the fellowship and a good meal,” Jay reiterated. So many people come, however, that the dinner is among the parish’s biggest fundraising events of the year. Proceeds go to parish programs and other church needs.

St. Bernard in Wabash offers six fish fries throughout the Lenten season at the Knights of Columbus Hall. They have many parish volunteers who help prepare the meal alongside the Knights. Ann Unger, parish secretary, said while the parish does want to profit from a fish fry, in order to be able to provide services to parishioners and others, “we ultimately want to connect with the church and community. It’s a friendly, community-oriented event.”

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