Faith is special ingredient at Wheeling Catholic church’s Fish Fry Fridays

By Karie Angell Luc for Chronicle Media


Piotr Dorman (facing, back) of Buffalo Grove volunteers at the fried fare station. (Photo by Karie Angell Luc/for Chronicle Media)

St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church will have served nearly 900 guests over this year’s Lenten Fish Fry Fridays season in Wheeling at 181 W. Dundee Road.

On Friday evenings during Lent, St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Parish has welcomed all to paid-entry meals served in the church’s Bonner Hall, a separate reception building behind the church.

The Friday fish fry church fundraiser is a multi-year tradition. Guests can dine in with servers bringing plates to their table, or they can carry out wrapped meals. The final meal of this Lenten season will be at 4 p.m. Friday, March 22.

Lent is the 40-day period before Easter Sunday, which is March 31. Catholics observe Lent through fasting, prayer and charity. Catholics typically refrain from eating meat on Fridays and on Good Friday, in particular.

Staffing the kitchen as volunteers at Fish Fry Fridays with shrimp or fish tacos at St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Parish in Wheeling are (from left) Aneta Gancarczyk, Veronica Suarez and Maria Rodriguez, all of Wheeling. (Photo by Karie Angell Luc/for Chronicle Media)

Cardinal Blase J. Cupich of the Archdiocese of Chicago indicated Catholic fish fry events during Lent build fellowship.

“As we enter the solemn season of Lent, the practice of abstinence holds profound significance in our spiritual journey,” Cupich said.

“Abstaining from meat on Fridays serves as a tangible reminder of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for humanity, particularly his crucifixion on Good Friday,” Cupich said.

For Joe Wolas of Northbrook, parishioner and the church’s fish fry committee chair, “Every Friday, not only first Friday, not only Lent time Fridays, we don’t eat meat.

“It just is in your vein, is, like fish, on Fridays, it just has a special taste,” said Wolas, speaking on March 15 as Fish Fry Fridays opened that night. “Not only here, but even in your home, that’s where we have fish on Friday, it tastes totally different when you eat it any other day.

Barbara Dolan (right) of Riverwoods arrives to dine at Fish Fry Fridays. (Photo by Karie Angell Luc/for Chronicle Media)

“It just tastes so good. It’s a completely different taste when you eat it on Friday.”

Dozens of volunteers assist, including teens pursuing confirmation service hours like Emilia Gancarczyk, 13, a seventh-grader from Wheeling.

Gancarczyk looked, “to spend time together,” with her mother Aneta Gancarczyk.

Service could help Emilia Gancarczyk, “to learn how to help others,” Aneta Gancarczyk said.

The Rev. Marcin Karwot, St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church pastor, said, “It’s a wonderful tradition.

“We try to keep the tradition, we invite people to come and share the table together, to share the meal together,” Karwot said.

Wolas said, “Whatever we do, we do for our church. We do it to worship the Lord. Polish, English and Spanish, we usually pitch in together, come together and here we are.”

The platter at Fish Fry Fridays with shrimp or fish tacos. (Photo by Karie Angell Luc/for Chronicle Media)

The church’s menu features fried fish and oven-roasted salmon and tilapia, fried or baked potatoes, salad, nachos plus fish or shrimp tacos. Dessert included churros or flaky danish puffs in apple or raspberry on March 15. Coffee and tea are included. Wine, beer, seltzer or soda are for purchase.

Wolas would not reveal secret meal ingredients but did indicate one special ingredient and that was, “Well, faith … yes.”

Jorge Hernandez of Wheeling volunteered on kitchen duty and said guests, “share some time with others, meet other people.”

Barbara Dolan of Riverwoods chose the fried fish and baked potato entree and offered a Blessed Mother prayer card to one guest who asked about cards kept near Dolan’s platter in the dining hall.

To Dolan, eating fish on Friday meant, “Christ gave up his life and died on the cross for all of us.

“He didn’t have to do that. He was sinless and we are the sinners,” Dolan said.

“And if we can’t do something for him, then there’s something wrong with us.”