MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The original idea behind Friday fish frys was to help Catholics abstain from eating meat, particularly during Lent.
Although popular at many bars and taverns, your votes sent Jason DeRusha to St. Albert the Great Catholic Church in Minneapolis for the Best of Minnesota.
It’s a beautiful Friday afternoon, and the patron saint of philosophers and scientists seemingly watches the slow trickle of people enter the church that bears his name.
“Most diocese, they ask that people not eat meat on Friday,” Father Joe Gillespie said.
For 22 years, each Friday during the Lenten season, the folks at St. Albert the Great Catholic Church in Minneapolis have put on a fish fry.
“It’s not a fish fry, it’s a dinner,” Brian Arvold said.
Sorry… fish dinner. Yet as the hour draws near and preparations are made, you don’t have to be the patron saint of scientists to see that this event is way more than your average church social.
“A minimum of about 125 each week,” Arvold said.
To be clear, that isn’t the number served, that’s the number of volunteers it takes to get this event off the ground.
“They come out of the woodwork, some of them are parishioners, some of them are not,” Arvold said.
Arvold, also a volunteer, is the ramrod in charge of the physical side of things.
“We put up a sign in the back of church each week. Some want to work in scrapeology which is cleaning up the dishes,” Arvold said. “Others want to be in the serving line.”
And holding up the spiritual end? That guy in the green hat, Father Joe Gillespie.
“Kind of an opportunity as members of the parish to not only work together, but get to know other members of the parish,” Gillespie said.
“Father Gillespie, I call him a gift from God and this parish is thriving because of him,” Scoop Meyer said.
“We have professional fryers to dip the fish,” Gillespie said. “I’m a friar, a Dominican friar.”
There is entertainment provided in case you have to wait.
“We’re ready to serve 1,000 to 1,600 people every Friday night. But we have a lot of fun. I tell people be ready for a three ring circus, because that’s what it is,” Arvold said.
Aside from the delicious fried or baked fish, the cheesy mashed potatoes, and that amazing coleslaw that I would like the recipe for…
“The secret is kept secret,” the woman serving coleslaw said.
OK, aside from that too, there seems to be a great spirit of fellowship at St. Albert’s that can’t be bought or manufactured.
“That’s the neat thing about life and God,” Arvold said. “It’s to share each other as brother and sister. No matter what race, what religion. We’re all here on the same world to help each other.”
The fish frys at St. Albert’s are Fridays through March 23. It costs $12 for adults and $6 for children. Kids under five eat free.
Last year the church sold more than 7,000 meals, on top of raffle and bingo proceeds.