Holy Trinity fish fry a monumental celebration of Lent

March 1, 2013
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Katie Roupe / Observer-Reporter
Jeff Karoleski dips fresh pollock into batter before frying at Holy Trinity National Catholic Church in Canton Township for its Friday fish fry. The fish fry averages about 1,400 sandwiches each week. Order a Print
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Katie Roupe / Observer-Reporter
Ron Junko and Alice McVay of Washington package fish sandwiches for delivery to local businesses. In addition to serving the lunch and dinner hours at the church, volunteers deliver orders for the lunch hour. Order a Print
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Katie Roupe / Observer-Reporter
A large portion of fish is put on a soft bun for a lunchtime fish sandwich at Holy Trinity National Catholic Church. In addition to fish, members sell homemade pierogies, potato pancakes, cabbage and noodles and desserts. Order a Print

For roughly six Fridays out of the year, Holy Trinity National Catholic Church on Hewitt Avenue in Canton Township is one of the most jumping joints in town.

Each Friday during the Lenten season, the kitchen and dining room of the church are abuzz with workers and diners in a yearly tradition revolving around fried fish.

“We have such a great time working,” said Pippy Legersky of Washington. “It’s such a small parish, and the fact that we have enough to do all this is amazing.”

The large kitchen area is filled to the brim with roughly 60 volunteer workers who will ensure that the day’s fish fry goes off without a hitch. That in itself is a monumental task when one considers the sheer volume of food the congregation puts out on a weekly basis – roughly 1,400 Alaskan pollock sandwiches, 900 potato pancakes, 450 orders of cabbage and noodles, 25 pounds of macaroni and cheese, not to mention sauerkraut balls, baked goods, French fries, pierogies and various other goodies.

“We make noodles every Wednesday,” Legersky said. “Last week we used 14 dozen eggs – 12 eggs for every 5 pounds of flour.”

While many churches and other organizations hold fish fries during Lent, Holy Trinity’s is one of the most popular in the area.

Every item on the menu is homemade by parishioners. Well, almost every item – organizers begrudgingly admit they purchase the buns for the fish sandwiches.

“All the noodles are cut by hand, never dried,” Legersky said. “That’s why they all look different. The sizes aren’t the same because they’re all homemade.”

The volunteers at the church aren’t finished working after Friday’s dinner rush. Volunteers work five or six days out of the week during Lent and preparations begin weeks before Ash Wednesday.

“I tell my husband during Christmas time, ‘I’ll see you at Easter,’” said Elaine Micco, 71. “The real story is some of the women here. We’re working on something every day. Monday is the only day we don’t do something.”

That a sentiment is something Erin Weston of Canonsburg agrees with.

“By the end of Lent, we’re so tired we don’t care what anybody eats,” Weston said. “We can’t even look at fish”

Micco said there are volunteers as young as 2 – “babies helping their moms clean up” – to senior elders in the church.

“I’ve been a member all my life,” said Ted Sikora, 93, of Washington. “I was an altar boy, although I’m probably the oldest guy coming these days.”

Even though Sikora, who helps deliver lunch orders, might make his case as the oldest parishioner volunteering at the fish fry, he is also in the running for the most energetic.

“I get up around 7 a.m., go to the Wellness Center to do some Zumba, then I come here ready to deliver fish,” Sikora said.

As a demonstration of the multigenerational effort that goes into the weekly fish fry, Sikora’s son, Tom, is the chairman of the parish fish fry committee.

“The important thing is people getting together and having camaraderie,” Tom Sikora said. “It makes us a better congregation. It’s nice for the crowd to see us get along like this. We project ourselves nicely to the public.”

The Polish National Catholic Church was founded by a group of Roman Catholic immigrants who broke away in the early 20th century when they felt the Vatican wasn’t respecting the rights of Polish-speaking people.

Although there are a few important theoretical beliefs that differ from their Roman Catholic counterparts, the Rev. Mark Swoger believes there’s only one thing newcomers need know on first introduction.

“Jesus has risen from the dead,” Swoger said. “If he doesn’t, none of this happens.”

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