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Friday Fish Fry: A Lenten Tradition

During the season of Lent, selling fish is big business. It seems that every restaurant with a sign out front promotes fish meals on Fridays, when many Roman Catholics avoid eating meat.

Restaurants aren't alone in tapping into this fish feeding frenzy. Lots of churches, and not just Catholic ones, serve fish meals this time of year.


In Lansing, St. Casimir Catholic Church on Sparrow Avenue tries to go a little further in an effort to serve as many meals of fish as possible.

It's the noon hour on a Friday during Lent, and people are in line to pay for a fish lunch at St. Casimir. Lots of local churches serve fish dinners during Lent, but St. Cas might be the only church in town with a lunchtime schedule, too.

Fr. Bill Lugger is Pastor at St. Cas. He says serving lunches isn’t the only thing the parish does to counter the competition. "We hold our own," Fr. Lugger posits, "because we're one of the few that have smelt. People come far and wide for smelt."

St. Casimir has also begun serving baked cod along with the fried perch. The parish will also serve fish meals on Good Friday, which many churches don’t do.

Up to 200 lunches will be served here on a Lenten Friday, and between 400 and 600 dinners. Those figures don’t include takeout orders. The parish also delivers fish meals to shut-ins and to the Mother Theresa House for people with terminal illnesses.

Ronald Cox is in charge of the lunchtime crew. He says the lunch service began over a decade ago when volunteers prepared noontime meals for police officers and firefighters who would be on duty and unable to have dinner here.

An entirely different crew comes in to get ready for the dinner hour.

Non-Catholics often wonder why Catholics avoid meat on Fridays during Lent. Fr. Lugger says the practice helps people connect with the events of Good Friday.

With devout Catholics and fish lovers alike hungry on a Friday during Lent, there’s one thing you can be sure of: finding a fish meal is easy, but the demand is great. A little patience can be rewarded with an enjoyable meal at churches and restaurants all over Lansing.

Scott Pohl is a general assignment news reporter and produces news features and interviews. He is also an alternate local host on NPR's "Morning Edition."
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