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St. Alexis harnesses social media to catch fish diners

| Wednesday, March 26, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Randy Jarosz | For the North Journal
Pat Fuscaldo, 18, of McCandless (left) and Paul Schlieper, 18, of Wexford batter and fry the fish Friday, March 14, 2014, during the St. Alexis Parish fish fry in McCandless.
Randy Jarosz | For the North Journal
Joe Zewe, 18, of McCandless is one of several Life Teen members using social media to promote the St. Alexis Parish fish fry Friday, March 14, 2014.
Randy Jarosz | For the North Journal
Joey Ferko, 7, of Wexford takes chows down on a fish sandwich Friday, March 14, 2014, during the St. Alexis Parish fish fry in McCandless.
Randy Jarosz | For the North Journal
Jack Kelley, 9, of Cranberry goes bunless while eating his fish dinner Friday, March 14, 2014, during the St. Alexis Parish fish fry in McCandless.
Randy Jarosz | For the North Journal
St. Alexis youth minister Andy Lesnefsky delivers an order Friday, March 14, 2014, during the St. Alexis Parish fish fry in McCandless.

In addition to rolling silverware in napkins, prepping to-go boxes and separating tartar and cocktail sauce packets, youth group members at the St. Alexis Parish fish fry have one more important job — tweeting out the good word.

The fish fry is running Fridays through April 11 with fried fish and baked fish, clam chowder and a social-media blitz that organizers hope will put a modern spin on a Catholic Lenten tradition.

“Our fish fry is in the 21st century, while other fish frys are stuck in the '60s,” said Central Catholic High School senior Pat Fuscaldo, 18, of McCandless.

Fuscaldo and other youth group members have been using Twitter and Instagram to promote the event with the hashtags — #StAlexisFishFry, #WinnerWinnerFishDinner and #fishfry — since the first week of Lent.

The parish's director of youth ministry, Andy Lesnefsky, 33, of Ross Township said since 2001, the fish fry has been run by and has supported the McCandless church's Life Teen youth group. But this is the first year for heavy social media use.

“We're always trying to do something a little different,” Lesnefsky said. “This year, we're just trying to make a really big push on social media … Our kids are all over social media already.”

The church also has online ordering, which, Lesnefsky said, has been heavily used this year, and a blog on the church's website has posts about the history of Lent, religious advice and parish news.

Lesnefsky owns a graphic-design business, Glory Design Company, and has worked with social media professionally.

While many churches use social media, it is not always just about getting followers and “likes,” he said.

“If you do social media well, it works alongside the mission of the church,” he said. “It's about the vision and the purpose. We want to engage people.”

North Allegheny Senior High School senior Joe Zewe, 18, of McCandless spent the week leading up to the first fish fry tweeting a countdown to “the best fish sandwich of your life.”

“Help the children. #StAlexisFishFry,” he tweeted as the first dinner began.

“We're the only fish fry doing this,” Zewe said. “All the other fish frys are boring.”

The St. Alexis fish fry is from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. Fridays in the cafeteria at St. Alexis School, 10090 Old Perry Highway in McCandless.

The menu includes traditional fried fish sandwiches, as well as baked fish and Boston clam chowder, with sides and homemade desserts. Dinner is $9 for adults or $6 for children younger than 10, and children younger than 3 eat for free.

Orders can be taken after 3:30 p.m. Fridays in the school cafeteria, by phone at 724-401-1379 or online at

All proceeds benefit Life Teen. About 175 high school students who belong participate in religious and social activities throughout the year.

Kelsey Shea is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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