Lenten traditions revive, deepen parish community ties

March 22, 2022

Members of the Knights of Columbus Father Roach Council 3217 fry fish during their Lenten fish fry at their KC Hall on March 11 in Dickinson. The parish continues its Lenten fish fry service every Friday in Lent. (Photos by James Ramos/Herald)

DICKINSON — It didn’t take long for the pan to empty.

Four new plates of fried and baked fish flew out the serving window as Sandy Sabatier eyed a growing line at the register that sat at the double-door entrance to the Father Roach Council 3217’s Knights of Columbus Hall.

Fish lovers had a choice this year: drive-thru or dine-in, and there were lines for both. Outside the hall, Knights, their wives and other volunteers braved a March 11 marked by a windy chill and occasional rain showers. They manned four vats of fry oil, sending hand-breaded fried fish and hush puppies to the indoor service kitchen, which also cooked up baked fish, and to a drive-thru center that ran out hundreds of meals to hungry diners waiting in their cars.

Since Feb. 25, the Knights became a well-oiled machine, cranking out hundreds of meals every Friday to a community eager for a full return to parish life. Certainly not their first fish fry, as the group hosted a monthly fish service, but Feb. 25 was their first dine-in service since they had transitioned to drive-thru only in July of 2021.

The first few Lenten fish fries saw lines that wrapped around the block, pushing into nearby intersections. Clearly Dickinson, like many towns around the Archdiocese, found their Lenten Friday evening dinner solution in the fish fry.

Dining at the round table or taking it to-go, communal life dwells on these in-person interactions.

Guiding drivers as they waited to place their order, the Dickinson council’s Grand Knight Joaquin Perez beamed as he recognized faces from the parish or from the town. As another knight handed four meals through a truck window, Perez shouted a greeting past the blistering wind.

“Enjoy the meals! They’re fresh!” he said, sending a friendly smile to another familiar face.

The kitchen buzzed as calls echoed to the outdoor fry kitchen: “More fried fish! More baked fish! More hushpuppies! More fries!” the knights cried out as the Friday service began to swell.

Sure it was busy, sometimes a little chaotic even as the single door to the outside became two-way or blew open when a gust of wind thought to sneak in, but after having shifted to drive-thru service only since 2021, it was a welcome, exciting ruckus that meant everyone was back together again.

The community, like many, was no stranger to overcoming adversity. Almost five years ago, that same KC Hall became a hub of another kind of relief, serving food, sharing clothes and supplies to the region shattered by Hurricane Harvey in August 2017. Dickinson was among the hardest hit that weekend, seeing some 50 inches of rain, which pushed Dickinson Bayou into thousands of homes and into the parish too.

But on that Lenten Friday, those memories were a distant thought as the Perez oversaw the fish fry operation.

“It’s about community,” he said. “We’re all one family; we take care of each other, no matter what’s happening.”

Back inside the hall, children ran about, maybe powered by a sugar-boost from a slice of cake or a stolen cookie, while some watched videos on their phones and snacked on fries.

Father Larry Wilson, pastor at Dickinson’s Shrine of the True Cross Catholic Church, which sits just 3 miles away, walked around the hall. He’d stop for a chat, catching up with parishioners, seeing newborn babies, students unchained from homework and assignments now basking in their Spring Break freedom, and sharing a consoling greeting to parents who then had their hands even more full.

The fish fry continues each Friday during Lent through April 8, from 5 to 7:39 p.m. at 4132 E. 27th St. in Dickinson. Dine-in and drive-thru available. Visit kc3217.org for more information.

Mass returns at Texas Southern University's Newman Center

Father Rodney Armstrong, SSJ, distributes ashes during Ash Wednesday Mass at the Texas Southern University Catholic Newman Center in Houston March 2. The Newman Center finally welcomed students and community members back for mid-week Masses for the first time since March 2020. (Photo by James Ramos/Herald)

At another Catholic community, Lent also signaled a rebirth and a return.

The Catholic Newman Center at Texas Southern University, one of two historically Black colleges and universities within the Archdiocese, welcomed students and community members back for Mass for the first since the COVID-19 pandemic gripped the world in March of 2020.

Yes, like many other ministries, they pivoted to virtual gatherings, hosting a weekly Rosary, online prayer vigils, Scripture studies and other events.

But after the school transitioned to virtual learning in 2020, then an uneven return to in-person classes with a very modified semester schedule, Doris Barrow III, who leads the Newman Center as campus minister, could only hope to see his students if they happened to come by.

During the summer of 2020, one marked by protests following the deaths of Houstonians George Floyd and Vanessa Guillén, Barrow could only throw open the doors to the Newman Center and offer a place of solace and prayer amid the change and unrest.

Barrow said stringent rules for on-campus gatherings made it difficult to host any events on campus.

But on that Ash Wednesday, with students and community members filing in and filling pews and seats that have long been empty, Father Rodney Armstrong, SSJ, pastor at Our Mother of Mercy Catholic Church in the Fifth Ward, offered a word of encouragement: “Lent is a time to begin again.”

Then not long after the homily, he offered them something even more precious: the Eucharist.

After Mass, students gathered for a brown bag tuna sandwich meal, the first of hopefully many more events to come. 

To learn more about the TSU Newman Center, visit www.tsunewmancenter.com or call 713-747-7595.