By Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Around 750,000 people in the Twin Cities identify as Catholic. It’s a big time of year for their faith and their food.

During the Lenten season, which are the weeks leading up to Easter, many Catholics don’t eat meat on Fridays. So fish fry and meatless feasts have become tradition, but COVID is taking a painful toll on tradition.

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Friday is a fun day at Our Lady Guadalupe on the west side of St. Paul. As active as the kitchen is on this Lenten Friday, it’s nothing compared to years past.

Deacon Gregg Sroder explains, “We don’t have the sit-down dinners and that used to be a huge social event for the community and people from the Arch Diocese would come and it would be wall-to-wall people.”

This year the parish has to be takeout-only for their beloved cheese and onion enchiladas.

They are so loved, they typically make for the church’s biggest fundraiser of the year, which pays for heating bills and mission funds. Deacon Sroder says, “The jury is still out on how it will affect us as far as fundraisers.”

Down the road in Mendota Heights, the numbers are coming in and participation is down.

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Pat Kzaley Anderson is on the host committee at Holy Family Maronite Catholic Church. She explained attendance, “Last year it was 353 the first week and this year it’s 197, so we are down like 45 percent from last year.”

The scaled down fish and Lebanese fundraiser prevents them from giving fund to others.

Abouna Emmanuel Nakhle is pastor at Holy Family Maronite Catholic Church and explains, “Part of it goes to charity to help the poor.” They support local charities like Union Mission Gospel and they support a charity in Lebanon.

But they’ll do what they can and make things happen as Pat says, “It’s going to end, we wouldn’t be Christians if we gave up hope.”

And this year hope is being served, to-go.

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The scaled back fundraisers are coming at an extra tough time. Because COVID has prevented so many people from attending church in-person, donations are down.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield