The 40-day season of Lent has started for Christians and with it comes fasting, prayer, repentance and renewal. During this solemn and reflective time leading up to the religious celebration of Easter, Catholics abstain from eating meat on Fridays as a means of sacrifice. They are also encouraged to “give up something” or “add something” to their daily life, such as giving up a favorite treat or habit throughout Lent or making effort to attend daily church service or worship events. Lenten sacrifices and the “extras” Catholics do are viewed as ways of getting closer to Jesus Christ and help make the celebration of Easter more meaningful, explained Sister Kathryn O’Brien, catechetical leader at Saint Albert the Great Church in North Royalton.
“This is a season where you are preparing your heart so that when the great season of Easter comes, you have united yourself with God and are ready to celebrate,” O’Brien said.
Another honored community tradition of the Lenten season is the annual “Fish Fry” event that takes place on Friday evenings at area churches and numerous local restaurants. These weekly events kick off universally on March 8.
At churches, congregation members come together to cook and serve fried fish, cabbage and noodles, shrimp, coleslaw and a slew of other meatless food options and children’s menu items. Many churches make their food items homemade and with treasured tried-and-true parish recipes. While many fish fry goers take their meals to go, most take a seat right there and enjoy the time with one another and members of their church family. It’s a tradition that only grows in popularity each Lenten season and helps deepen faith and connection to others.
Local church fish fries have grown more savvy over the years, offering call-ahead ordering, drive-thru services and even fish tacos, like that of Saint Albert the Great Church. Service and Volunteer Coordinator Denise Bobulsky says about 70 volunteers assist each Friday with the parish’s weekly fish fry, which donates its proceeds to their Justice and Compassion Ministries, such as the Feeding the Hungry Ministry. Fish fry sales last year at the Wallings Road church helped to serve more than 14,000 meals to those hungry and in need.
“The core kitchen crew, which includes our coveted fry team, has been frying fish and manning the ovens for many years,” Bobulsky said. “Our many volunteers include a diverse sampling of our parish family from our senior members and retirees, to day school families, day school teachers and staff, teens, empty nesters, scout troops, Parish Council members, and Father Edward Estok, who has been known to join the serving line when needed.”
The 2018 Lenten fish fry season at Saint Albert the Great concluded with a total of 516 dozen pierogi prepared and served, nearly 200 pounds of Lake Erie Perch breaded and fried and more than 400 pounds of beer-battered Cod enjoyed by the weekly crowds, Bobulsky said. Prices range from $8 for a classic fish fry meal to $13 for hand-breaded Perch. All dinners include a beverage and two side dishes such as pierogi, French fries, cabbage and noodles, coleslaw, green beans or applesauce. Other menu items include fried shrimp, fish tacos, cod, cheese pizza, homemade clam chowder and macaroni and cheese. Dessert and “A La Carte” options are also available.
Numerous local restaurants also feature special Lenten menus throughout the liturgical season, including the following:
Carrie Cerino’s Ristorante & Party Center: Friday Night Fish Fry Dinner for which includes Breaded & Fried Lake Perch, Seafood Chowder, Cole Slaw and choice of a side dish of spaghetti, potato or vegetable.
Cleats North Royalton: Offers three types of weekly fish fries including a Lake Erie Perch meal, an all-you-can-eat fish fry and the Gray Wolf Fish Fry featuring white fish soaked and prepared in lemon and milk.
Niko’s Bar & Gyros: Offering Lenten specials every Wednesday and Friday during Lent with Beer Battered Cod Gyro, Fish & Chips, Avacado Hummus, to name a few.
Michael’s Place Restaurant: Fish choices include all-you-can-eat breaded perch, cod, tilapia, grouper, salmon, walleye. Other Lenten specials include shrimp, shrimp platter, lobster or scallop mac-n-cheese, seafood platter, soups and sides. bottled wine, bottled beer, and desserts.
Contributing Writer