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 | By Ron Kuzlik

Lenten fish fries bring parish families together

Friday evening fish fries during Lent have become a staple for many Catholic parishes.

It all started prior to the Second Vatican Council, when U.S. bishops had a variety of restrictions concerning fasting — eating one full meal and two smaller meals that don’t equal another full meal — and abstinence, refraining from eating meat on all Fridays and other designated days.

There were a large number of immigrants from Poland, Germany and other Central European counties that migrated to the midwest of the United States in the 19th century. The proximity to the Great Lakes and a number of other fresh water lakes meant eating fish became an alternative to meatless Fridays.

With that, the Lenten Fish Fry was born:

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Over time, these Midwesterners began to disperse and settle in other parts of the county, notably in the south and the Carolinas. And with them, they brought along the tradition of Lenten fish fries.

As it turns out, Catholics are responsible in part for McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish sandwich — an unusually popular menu item at a burger joint. When franchise owner Lou Groen opened the first McDonald’s in the Cincinnati area in 1959, a majority of the people were Catholic. Although his new restaurant was an immediate success, he noticed that on Fridays his sales decreased by about 75%. Why? Because of the Catholic Church’s restriction on eating meat on Fridays. Groen introduced the Filet-O-Fish sandwich in 1962.

Some restrictions were loosened after Vatican II, but fasting and abstinence were still mandated for Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all Fridays of Lent. The Knights of Columbus step up in a big way to provide.

Fish fries are held at KofC clubs in some places, but mostly at local parish halls either alone or with other service organizations. Depending on the venue, there might be several dozen people to as many as 300 attendees. The menu is a selection of fried fish, usually cod, and shrimp, accompanied by sides such as French fries, coleslaw, salads or macaroni and cheese, and the ubiquitous soft roll.

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The fish fries serve an important mission, though — to bring the parish family together and build community. The success of these Friday staples depends on teams of volunteers to purchase food, set up the hall, cook and serve guests and cleanup after.

Furthermore, the monies raised at KofC fish fries benefit programs such as Special Olympics, the Knight’s ASAP program that provides support to pregnancy centers, and local programs like scholarships and other service projects through local parishes.

The Lenten fish fries at St. Philip Neri Church in Fort Mill are sponsored by Knights Council 12366. 

“The proceeds from our fish fries will go to support Camp Care,” Grand Knight Bob Gesell explained, “a national nonprofit organization to help children living with cancer and their families at medically supervised pediatric oncology camps.”

In the present day, nearly a quarter of all of McDonald’s sales of Filet-O-Fish sandwiches are during Lent — as a result of the Catholic practice of abstinence from meat on Fridays!

Find a KofC sponsored fish fry near you:

3684 – RSVP requested: 803-438-0468 AIKEN - 1037 Spaulding Drive 2/23, 3/8 & 3/22
8295 ANDERSON - St. Joseph, Father Friend Hall 3/1, 5:30-7:30PM
12263 BLUFFTON - St. Gregory the Great, Parish Life Center Fridays, 4:30-7:30PM
12472 CHARLESTON - Blessed Sacrament Fridays, 5:00 PM
17760 CHARLESTON - Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Parish Hall 2/23 & 3/22, 6-8pm
10334 CHARLESTON - St. Joseph, Family Life Center Fridays, 5-6:30PM
724 COLUMBIA - Basilica of St. Peter Fridays, 5-7:30PM
6847 COLUMBIA - St. John Neumann 3/22 at 7:30PM
9576 EASLEY - St. Luke, Annunciation Hall 3/22, 6:30pm
11991 GOOSE CREEK -  Immaculate Conception, Community Center 3/8 & 3/22, 11AM-7PM
1668 GREENVILLE - Our Lady of the Rosary Fridays, 6:30-8PM
1668 – St. Anthony Men’s Club GREENVILLE - St. Anthony of Padua Fridays, 5-7PM
7129 GREENWOOD - Our Lady of Lourdes 3/1 & 3/16, 5-7:30PM
6726 HANAHAN - Divine Redeemer 3/8 & 3/15 from 5-7pm
6250 JAMES ISLAND - Nativity Church, Parish Center Friday, March 22, 5:00 PM to 7:00 PM
11325 LEXINGTON - Corpus Christi, Parish Hall Fridays, 5-6:45PM
9475 MOUNT PLEASANT - Christ Our King 3/8 & 3/22, 6:00PM
6726 NORTH CHARLESTON - St. John 2/23 from 5-7pm
11028 PAWLEYS ISLAND - Precious Blood of Christ, Parish Life Center 2/23, 5PM
6756 ROCK HILL - St. Anne SchooL Fridays, 5-7:30PM
12366 FORT MILL - St. Philip Neri, Parish Center Fridays, 2/23 to 3/22, 5-7PM
17824 SEAS and Frassati, Carolina Forest, Myrtle Beach Fridays, 5-7PM
6884 SENECA - Knights Club Hall Fridays, 5-7:30PM, dine in/take out
8182 SIMPSONVILLE - St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Social Hall 2/23 only
10819 – Knights, Scouts, Italian Club SIMPSONVILLE - St. Mary Magdalene, Parish Center Fridays, 5:30-6:45PM
9575 SPARTANBURG - Jesus Our Risen Savior Fridays, 4-7PM


For more information on the South Carolina State Council Knights of Columbus, visit