March 6 marked the beginning of Lent for the Catholic Church, as well as many Protestant denominations. As always, Miles Bavin and John Knapik organized volunteers for the open community Friday fish frys hosted by St. Ann and St. Marcellus churches.
Bavin has helped organize St. Ann’s fish fry since the church started the meals in 2002. While his roles have changed over the years, he still volunteers on an annual basis.
“I just enjoy it,” Bavin said. “It’s a lot of work, but I don’t do too much her. I get everything here. I make coleslaw and make batter. I just do all oddball stuff. I don’t fry fish anymore.”
John Knapick, parishioner of St. Marcellus Church, has been a member of the church since he was “1 year old.” Like Bavin, he has helped at the fish fry since St. Marcellus started them more than 15 years ago.
“A lot of the people like to talk, have somewhere to go, sit down and talk to people,” Knapick said. “It’s like helping the church and also helping the community around here who like to have a good fish meal every once in awhile. I also feel like I’m obligated since I belong to the church.”
St. Ann and St. Marcellus are the only Catholic churches in Greene County that host fish frys during the Lenten season. Bavin said St. Ann is able to maintain the annual fish fry tradition because the congregation can consistently gather volunteers each year.
“You have to have the organization and the help to do it,” Bavin said. “You can’t just have a fish fry and have three people show up to feed 100 people.”
Usually, more than 100 people come to buy meals. Bavin said St. Ann normally sells around 300 meals each Friday. Knapick said the night of March 15, they sold 350 pounds of fish.
“We have 300-400 seats available at one time, and most of the time they are taken,” Knapick said.“So it’s pretty busy. There are people who come from the state of West Virginia, Greensburg [and] New Stanton.”
St. Ann and St. Marcellus each have unique elements to their fish frys. Bavin said St. Ann delivers meals and offers student discounts. He also said their fish fry is different than St. Marcellus’.
“It’s a beer batter fish, and [St. Marcellus’] is fine too, but theirs is breaded fish,” Bavin said. “They do fry, but they bake fish too. I feel our batter’s better.”
One thing that makes St. Marcellus unique, Knapick said, is that it has a wide assortment of desserts every year.
“Normally a fish fry [has] one type of a cake or something like that,” Knapick said. “We have cakes, pies, cookies, donuts, you name it. The customers love the variety of desserts. Many of them tell us that, because places they go, they get cake and nothing but cake. Here, you have that big variety, and a lot of people come here because of that.”
The churches use the money they earn toward different causes. Knapick said St. Marcellus uses the earnings for expenses and some charitable donations. St. Anne also uses its income toward various charities and scholarships. Bavin said he enjoys providing the money for these causes.
“[I enjoy] the money we make to give away, we give all of our money away, to charities and needy people, and the good that it does,” Bavin said.
Both churches are hosting fish frys March 22 and April 5, 12 and 19 for lunch and dinner. St. Ann serves lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and dinner from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. They’ll only have dinner April 19. St. Marcellus has its lunch from noon to 3 p.m. and dinner from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.