A fish fry is more than just a place to fulfill the Catholic obligation to abstain from meat on Fridays in Lent. It’s also where friends meet and share good conversation.
That was one of the intended outcomes for organizers of Most Holy Trinity’s fish fry. The historic parish in the Hyde Park neighborhood of north St. Louis resurrected its fish fry last year after about a 20-year hiatus.
An army of volunteers — parishioners and people from the local business community who have donated their time and supplies — made the first year a success. The lunch and dinner menu includes a full spread of classic fish-fry fare: cod, catfish nuggets or baked tilapia and sides of green beans, spaghetti and cole slaw.
And the desserts. Oh, the desserts. One can’t miss trying Vickie Deason’s homemade strawberry Jello angel food cake, a spongy layer infused with the sweet flavor of strawberry gelatin. Deason, a lifelong resident of Hyde Park, and fellow parishioner Nicky Hoxworth are the mastermind organizers behind the fish fry. They’ll tell you it’s more than just the food that’s drawing people to the church.
“We were looking for ways to raise money for the parish … but we were looking to reach out to the community, and let them know that we’re thriving, that we’re alive here and trying to bring more parishioners in. We definitely need more youth,” said Deason, who recently purchased an historic home on Klein Street; the house once was inhabited by some of the city’s early French fur traders along the Mississippi River.
Hoxworth, who grew up in Hyde Park but moved out of the neighborhood in the ’90s, came back to Most Holy Trinity a decade ago after attending a parish homecoming at Deason’s invitation. “I was back to my feet hitting the pavement,” Hoxworth said. Gesturing toward Deason, she added: “She comes up with all the good ideas, and then we make it happen.”
Hoxworth, too, was pleasantly surprised by the success of the first fish fry last year. “It was a lot of work, but it was well worth it. It was good to see old friends and hear their stories,” she said.
Both praised the parishioners and the St. Louis business community who have been instrumental to the success. Donations include bread from Marconi Bakery, spaghetti sauce from Brazie’s, and paper products and utensils from Ford Hotel Supply in north St. Louis. Ford Hotel Supply and Tocco Foods, which has supplied the fish, also have sent employees to volunteer. Parishioners have donated desserts and drinks, too. Volunteers also deliver meals to residents and businesses in the area.
Parish life coordinator Sister Janice Munier, SSND, coordinates tours of the historic church, which was founded in 1848 as a German Catholic parish right smack in the middle of a booming trade town. Post-war sprawl to suburban St. Louis and the construction of Interstate 70 through the parish territory led to the parish’s decline in numbers over the years. The school, which was opened as a German language school for boys in 1849, continues today as a co-ed institution for kindergartners through eighth-graders.
The lunch service has drawn employees from businesses on the northside. About a dozen workers from Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals Company were at the fish fry March 8. A handful of people started attending last year, and then word spread among employees, said employee Liz Peters. “A number of us come here for holy day Masses,” she said. “The food’s good and everybody’s friendly. Everybody comes to greet us. It supports an anchor in the neighborhood.”
Patty Whaley joined the parish about two years ago, and now volunteers at the fish fry. Having attended several trivia nights and Christmas Mass, Whaley said she ultimately was attracted by the friendliness of parishioners. Not long after she joined the parish, Whaley, who lives in Granite City, Ill., was elected to the parish council.
“You open up the church doors, and there are just arms that bring you in,” she said. “You feel so good helping here.”
Other fish fries in the North Deanery
St. Alphonsus Rock Parish, 1118 N. Grand Blvd. at Cook Avenue; 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Fridays from March 15-April 12; Menu includes catfish, jack salmon, cod, spaghetti, cole slaw and dessert; soul food sides (greens and mac and cheese) will be served March 22 and April 12.
St. Augustine Parish, 1371 Hamilton Ave.; Fridays in Lent through April 12 (except March 29). Dinners ($9, includes buffalo, catfish or jack salmon, two sides, including potato salad, cole slaw and spaghetti and dessert) and sandwiches ($5) are available for pre-order only. Southern greens and sweet potato pie are available for an extra charge. Sign up in advance by calling the parish at (314) 385-1934 or Carmen at (314) 385-2098.