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Fish frying for Lent begins in Armstrong

| Friday, March 7, 2014, 1:26 a.m.
Louis B. Ruediger | Leader Times
Frank Battaglia 55, and Larry Bandura, 60, of the Kittanning Council 1011 Knights of Columbus, are making cole slaw for the Friday night fish fry at St.Mary,Our Lady of Guadalupe Roman Catholic Church in Kittanning. Thursday March 6, 2014.

There's something fishy — in a good way — about the collaboration between the Kittanning Knights of Columbus and St. Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe parish during Lent.

For 40 years, the Knights of Columbus had its fish fry each week during Lent and served about 60 people a night in their hall. The parish started having fish dinners about five years ago, but didn't compete with the Knights of Columbus during Lent.

“The Knights didn't want to give up their meal at their hall on Woodward Avenue, and the church didn't want to get in their way,” said parishioner Joseph Kiehlmeier. “The church held fish dinners at different times of the year, but we'd stop for Lent.”

It turns out that the union of the two groups was a match made in heaven, or, maybe a deep fryer. When the weekly fish fry moved to the parish hall in downtown Kittanning, sales increased to about 300 people a night.

“Now, our ultimate goal is to build up a sense of community,” the church's Rev. Douglas Dorula said. “We have parishioners coming from all over the region ... Ford City, Worthington, Cowansville and Cadogan, since their parishes don't have regular dinners.”

Along with patrons, the fish fry brings out more volunteers. Knights of Columbus member David Edwards said members of the Kittanning Catholic Daughters of America, youth group and parishioners all get involved — whether it's frying fish, serving dinners or making desserts.

“It just makes sense to work together,” Edwards said. “It all works well, because we've got a nice kitchen, loads of parking and great volunteers who keep it all running. We all believe in the Lord, and in helping the church and community, which brings us all together.”

On Thursday, members of the parish and Knights spent the evening getting their kitchen ready for tonight's fry.

About a dozen volunteers piled into the kitchen to start chopping cabbage and making coleslaw and loading the 150 pounds of fresh fish into church refrigerators.

“We do as much as we can the night before,” Dorula said. “It's hard to believe, but 4:30 p.m. comes fast on Fridays during Lent.”

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1337, or bpedersen@tribweb.com.

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