The Friday night fish fry tradition is in full swing in numerous parishes across the Diocese this Lenten season, feeding customers with hearty, homemade comfort foods and offering hospitality to guests looking for a place to sit, eat and talk about the latest news in town.
From the traditional fried fish sandwiches with a side of fries and cole slaw, to platter selections of baked haddock, clam strips, crab cakes, and shrimp, you don’t have to travel far for a parish fish dinner.
On consecutive Fridays, The Catholic Witness made visits to the Lenten fish dinners at Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Catawissa and St. Peter Parish in Columbia – and found that these weekly events are serving up more than meals.
At Our Lady of Mercy, the ladies of the parish are serving up beer-battered haddock sandwiches and dinners, complemented by delicious homemade haluski, pierogies and desserts, among other offerings, depending on which Friday you go.
At Our Lady’s, which celebrates its parish centennial this year, the dinners are prepared and served with a smile, drawing folks from Catawissa and neighboring boroughs in Columbia County.
Whether the weekly menu features scalloped potatoes, mac and cheese or the Coal Region’s famous haluski and pierogies, you’re undoubtedly getting a meal with a down-home feeling, “just like mom used to make.”
In Lancaster County, the fish fry at St. Peter Parish is in its 44th year, operated by a bevy of volunteers from those taking orders at the door, to the cooks in the kitchen and the servers at various stations. Watching the operation here is like watching a well-choreographed dance troupe, with each person in their position and in sync.
Baked cod, crab cakes, fried fish, shrimp, scallops and homemade soups are among the menu items here. Those who dine-in are treated to dinner music, courtesy of Don Steinfelt on the keyboard and Sister Helene Trueitt, ASC, on the banjo.
The annual fish frys – whether in the Diocese’s northern tier like Our Lady’s, or along Lancaster’s Route 30 corridor like St. Peter’s, and indeed everywhere in between – are social events and fundraisers for the parishes. But they also build community.
“This is an effort in evangelization,” Father Augustine Joseph, MSFS, pastor of St. Peter Parish, said as he distributed take-out orders. “There are people who aren’t Catholic who are coming here, and we can say hello, ask them how they’re doing and welcome them. It’s a great thing for the parish and for the community.”
Click here for a listing of parish fish dinners in the Diocese, and be sure to visit them before their final events on Friday, March 31.
(Our Lady’s photos by Chris Heisey, St. Peter’s photos by Jen Reed.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness