The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Local News

March 16, 2014

Fellowship always on the menu

Friendship the main course at Lenten dinner

SHARPSVILLE — You can find more than just great food at the Lenten fish fry at St. Bartholomew Church.

“Camaraderie and fish are wonderful,” said Gerry Hanley, a parish member from Sharpsville.

Generations of families look forward to the dinners, now in their 34th year. The church at 321 Ridge Ave., Sharpsville, hosts them every Friday during Lent, including Good Friday, from 4 to 7 p.m., and offer fried haddock, baked cod, jumbo shrimp and pasta fagioli and desserts from the parish-run bake sale.

The community is welcome and will be greeted by St. Bart’s volunteers with open arms.

“It’s family. It’s very open,” said Gary DeJulia, a parish member from Sharpsville. “We have a small-town mentality. We don’t care who anyone is. We don’t care about your religion or race.”

At the first fish fry of the season, held last week, St. Bart’s sold 552 dinners.

“It’s the best we did in a really long time, and we completely sold out of everything,” Rev. Matt Strickenberger said. He said proceeds from the dinners cover a significant number of the parish’s operating costs.

Dinner guests credited Strickenberger for the growing success of the fish fry.

“He’s really liked in the parish a lot,” Hanley said of Rev. Strickenberger, who was assigned to the parish in July.

A host of students from high schools including Kennedy Catholic, Hickory and Sharpsville were on hand Friday to greet dinner guests and rush their orders to the kitchen. The youths are able to help and credit the time to volunteer hours they need for religious education.

“It’s because of Father Matt bringing young people back to the church,” DeJulia said.

Bobby Demofonte, a sophomore at Sharpsville, said he’s been an altar server for years and has helped at the fish fry since fifth grade. He was rushing about where he was needed, and hoped he could work the dishwasher with his dad, Bob Sr.

“I have to get this quote in for my dad,” he said. “People don’t come for the food, they come for the clean dishes.”

“It’s an incredible group of men who work for the good of St. Bart’s,” Strickenberger said.

He said the group has done a huge amount of work that has saved the parish a great amount of money.

Parish ladies, likewise, were doing their share by selling Rosaries and goodies from the bake sale.

“Our parish event, everyone loves. We get close to 600 people,” Hanley said. “We’re getting a lot of the younger back, and that has to do with Father Matt.”

St. Bart’s is one of about four Lenten church fish fries in Mercer County.

St. Anthony’s Church, 804 Idaho St., Sharon, is in its 22nd year of serving dinners and palachinka. It has served approximately 600 dinners on each of the Lenten Fridays this year.

It is the biggest fundraiser for the parish and takes more than  40 volunteers to make it happen. Dinners are 4 to 7 p.m. every Friday, including Good Friday. An Easter bread sale is April 15 and 16 during Holy Week.

Other parishes that hold a fish fries are Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, 100 Penn Ave., Mercer; 5 to 7 p.m. Fridays, including Good Friday, and Church of the Beloved Disciple, Pine Township, 1310 S. Center St. Extension, Route 208: 4:30 to 7 p.m. every Friday in Lent, excluding Good Friday, and St. Michael's Church in Greenville, Fridays In Lent, from 4:30 - 7:00 p.m. in Lateran Hall, across from the church on High Street.

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