Fish Fry kicks off season of Lent

Knights of Columbus holds meal at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church


Wednesday, Feb. 14, wasn’t just Valentine’s Day. For Christians all over the world it was also Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent.

During Lent, many people choose to give up something they enjoy as a symbol of sacrifice and suffering, as well as avoiding eating meat on Fridays. Fish, however, is fair game. 

On Friday night, Feb. 16, St. Joseph’s Catholic Church hosted a meal, prepared and sponsored by the Knights of Columbus, a non-profit Catholic men’s organization.

The Knights provided catfish, breaded and fried to perfection as well as sides, desserts and drinks.

All food items were prepared and served by local volunteers for the bargain price of $15 for adults and $5 for kids under 13. 

At 5 p.m. the doors opened, and the crowd filtered in. Parking spaces were hard won and the line of hungry people went all the way to the door.

Many familiar faces were present, either eating or serving, and the scent of loaves and fishes hung in the air. The crowd made pleasant small talk in the queue and Father Guillermo Treviño greeted each guest as they approached the cash box.

Out back, a tent was set up with stations where the Knights of Columbus were slicing, breading, and frying the catfish filets.

Aaron Cambell, Grand Knight of the West Liberty KoC, had all the details on how this meal gets made. “We ordered about 180 pounds of fish,” Campbell said. “We cut it, we bread it, and then we’ve got four fryers back there.” 

As for the breading, even Campbell can’t tell you the details.

“It’s a super-secret recipe,” Campbell said, “I don’t know it.” 

The rest of the meal is provided by Jeff’s Market and prepared by volunteers. 

“We’ve got mac’n’cheese for the kids,” Campbell said, “baked beans, cole slaw, baked potatoes.”

There were also drinks and condiments, but the dessert table was the real prize, featuring all kinds of homemade cakes and pies. Pie after pie kept exiting the kitchen all night, and most of those pies were Mary Ellen Simon’s coconut creme.

Father Guillermo Treviño was not surprised.  

“Some people come for the pie, not the fish,” he said. “We just happen to have fish too.”

The number of guests was estimated to be around 200, with dozens of to-go boxes and many dining in. Treviño explained that the Knights of Columbus help the church and the community by raising money at this time of year.

“They give one or two scholarships a year to a graduating senior,” Treviño said, and that’s not their only project. “They help sponsor a free-throw contest and they also help sponsor a spelling bee.”  

In addition to the Knights, the church finds dozens of other volunteers to help make and serve this meal, whose ages ranged from eighth grade upward.

Not only do they serve the food they’ve made, but the fry tent is set up a week in advance, during which tables are cleaned, and the kitchen is prepped.

From 5-7 p.m., volunteers buss tables, bring drink refill and assist those in need by carrying trays, hanging up coats, or finding safe places for canes and walkers. 

“A lot of them are the Religious Ed students, others are parishioners, some don’t even go here but it’s a tradition to help year after year,” Treviño said.

There were even some new faces volunteering. Clayton and Shelby Hert moved to West Liberty about four months ago from Columbia, Missouri to pursue employment opportunities with Kent. So far, they like it here.

“It’s good,” Clayton Hert said, “everybody’s really nice.” 

But the big question everyone’s asking this time of year; what are you giving up for Lent?

For Aaron Campbell, he and his wife are done with the Starbucks drive-thru. For Father Treviño, it’s fast food. Some of the parishioners are concerned because he doesn’t do much cooking, so think of him when you’re making dinner and invite a hungry priest to join you. Joselyn Corona-Machado is aiming to limit her screen time. For famous local Kelly Morrison, chocolate is her big sacrifice this Lenten season.

“I’m trying,” Morrison said, “it doesn’t work…it’s the thought that counts!”

On Friday, March 1, the Knight of Columbus will serve shrimp at St. Joseph’s from 5-7 p.m. Two more catfish fries are planned for the Fridays leading up to Easter. There are limited opportunities to get that coconut cream pie!

lent, fish