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Fish Fry Fridays: Land O’ Lakes church adapting Lent tradition to pandemic times

Pasco County

LAND O’ LAKES, Fla. (WFLA) – Catholic churches in the Tampa Bay area are adapting to the coronavirus pandemic, working to continue the tradition of “Fish Fry Fridays” during Lent, but doing so safely.

Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church in Land O’ Lakes, located at 2348 Collier Parkway, is one of those churches. They’re adapting by providing only curbside takeout meals and the ability to order online.

Matthew Youngster is the Deputy Grand Knight of the Knights of Columbus, Council 8104, and has been involved in the church’s fish fry for the past 10 years. He said every year, during the six weeks of Lent, the church serves anywhere between 500 and 800 people.

This year is, of course, going to be much more challenging.

“Just like everyone else, we’ve had to change how we’re approaching the fish fry this year because of the coronavirus outbreak. And we are going to takeout only, so we’ve changed a lot of what we do,” he said. “We’re really trying to embrace all of the changes and make the most of the changes, make the most of the situation. We’ve always been able to serve hundreds of people every week at our church so we’re hoping that we’ll be able to keep doing that even though circumstances have definitely changed and things are different for everyone.”

(Courtesy: Matthew Youngster)

Youngster said the church offers three types of fish during their Friday fry.

“We do a regular fried fish, Cajun-fried fish and then a baked fish option as well. And then all the usual fixings along with it – french fries, baked beans, coleslaw and bread, and mac and cheese as well,” he said.

Youngster told 8 On Your Side’s Daisy Ruth the church has practice perfecting their fish fry craft and they are ready to apply the skills they’ve learned over the years to the new challenge of the coronavirus pandemic to continue serving the community. He is hopeful folks will still support their efforts, as the money earned throughout Lent is put back into the community.

“So we work with a lot of different groups around our local community. For example, we work a lot with the Saint Vincent de Paul Society at our church and they give food to the poor in the area. We work with the Baltimore Lopez state nursing home a little bit north of our campus in Land O’ Lakes,” he said.

The profits of the last two years have gone toward scholarships for local Catholic high schools.

Youngster wants those in the community to know this is not just what the church, the Knights or his specific council is doing, but that councils all over Tampa Bay are changing and transitioning their efforts due to the pandemic.

“I know a lot of them are going to still have their fish fries, some of them aren’t. But I would just really encourage people to support the work that the Knights of Columbus are doing,” he said. “We are continuing to support our community just like everyone else is and just trying to make the best of the circumstances.”

Lent this year begins on Feb. 17 with the observation of Ash Wednesday.

If you know of a local fish fry provided by a church or local business in the Tampa Bay area, email druth@wfla.com or online@wfla.com.

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