St. Alphonsus Church and School is a destination point during Lent as hundreds of hungry customers flock to the popular Friday Fish Fry.
This year marks the fifth anniversary of the fundraiser that grew out of the Pine Township parish’s “Get It Done” campaign to pay off the school’s addition debt.
St. Alphonsus church and school are at 201 Church Road in Wexford.
It is the only parish in the northern suburbs to offer Ash Wednesday dinners and one of the few to serve on Good Friday.
"Get It Done" board member Vince Morreale, who has a passion for cooking and serving large groups, proposed the fish fry. The Glenshaw chiropractor once considered a career in the culinary arts, according to his wife, Mary.
Soon parishioners Frank McSorley and Mike Cuddy were on board with their detailed plans and years of fish-fry management experience. The brothers-in-law (married to sisters Tricia and MaryAnn) volunteered together for many years at the St. Teresa of Avila fish fry that Frank's father, Ed McSorley, started in 1982.
Just three weeks after the the school and church approved the St. Alphonsus fish fry idea, the Friday dinners were in full swing.
On average, 1,100 dinners are sold each week with the help of about 100 volunteers. That amounts to 600 pounds of Atlantic cod and 60 pounds of shrimp per week served with side dishes, soups, homemade condiments and desserts, fresh brewed iced tea and other beverages.
The fish is the highest restaurant quality—processed and frozen at sea—and the tartar and cocktail sauces are homemade every week.
“We wouldn’t be able to do this without the school families,” said McSorley.
Over the past four years, proceeds from the fish fry put a $200,000 dent in the building loan debt, but it’s become much more than a fundraiser to the school and church community.
Current and former St. Alphonsus School students reunite as they wait on and bus tables, serve beverages, work in the dessert room or clean up.
Teachers, parents and parishioners work side by side, week after week in their red aprons to make the event a success. Local businesses, school and parish families support the event with ads on the placemats and through the purchase of menu items and supplies.
School Principal Sister Mariella Bradley has been a dedicated volunteer from the start. After the final school bell rings, she dons her red fish-fry apron and descends the stairs to the school cafeteria.
“The spirit of the fish fry is tremendous! When you think Friday, fish and Lent, you don't normally think crowds of people, great spirit and delicious food—but that's the result. It's a most enjoyable time,” Sister Mariella said.
The dinner preparations begin on Wednesday with a two-shift crew that thaws the fish and shrimp.
As soon as the school lunch period ends on Thursday, a group swoops in to mix the homemade tartar and cocktail sauces and portions it into individual serving containers.
Later that evening, a team cuts the thawed filets into serving sizes.
While the students are in class on Friday morning, another group of volunteers forms an assembly line to bread the shrimp and fish for that night’s dinners.
The coleslaw is mixed fresh later that afternoon in the school kitchen, the iced tea brewed and lemonade is made as the tables are set and decorated for the hundreds of diners expected each Friday.
And then there's the dessert room. Each week school parents and parishioners donate homemade pies, cakes, cupcakes, brownies and cookies for a sweet ending to dinner.
Takeout orders are also available. You may call ahead to order after 1 p.m. at 724-759-8659 or 412-304-1254 and specify a pick up time of 4:30 p.m. or later.
Eat-in or takeout adult meals are $9; children's meals are $2.
Here is the Friday dinner menu:
- Choice of entrée: breaded, fried shrimp or baked Atlantic cod or breaded, fried Atlantic cod. Can be requested as a sandwich.
- Choice of one soup: New England clam chowder or tomato Florentine
- Choice of one side: macaroni and cheese, french fries or baked potato
- Choice of one salad: applesauce or coleslaw
- Choice of beverage
All items are also available a la carte and individually priced.
Pine-Richland Patch encourages readers to submit information about happenings in the community. Jill Taylor of Spero Consulting submitted this story on behalf of St. Alphonsus Church and School. If you have news you'd like to share about your place of worship, school, group or event, please email the information and photos to Editor Cindy Cusic Micco at firstname.lastname@example.org