Like countless other churches, historic St. Augustine Catholic Church (1210 Gov. Nicholls St., 525-5934; www.staugustinecatholicchurch-neworleans.org) hosts a fish fry each Friday during Lent, with the first one falling on Feb. 24 this year. Audrey Amos is one of the parishioners who helps make it happen, along with fellow coordinator Eloise Picou and a group of more than 30 volunteers. St. Augustine has held the Lenten fish fry for decades and it is as an annual fundraiser for the church. The fish fries are open to all, and for an $8 donation, a visitor gets a plate of fried catfish with potato salad, vegetables, bread and dessert, and specials like shrimp Creole or etouffee are sometimes available. Fish fries will be held in the St. Augustine parish hall from noon to 6 p.m. each Friday through April 6.
Describe how a typical fish fry day begins.
Amos: We begin with a prayer, and it's a prayer that we'll succeed and sell out that day. Then you rush, rush to start getting orders ready. Someone will play some hymns, and we'll be singing while we work. Then, at noon, the music changes and it's all about a party. Periodically a musician from the neighborhood will come in and hit a little session right there for us, choir members might start singing. It's all impromptu.
Do you think people are coming for more than just a plate of catfish?
A: Oh yes, it's part of that New Orleans atmosphere that you don't get anywhere else. You walk in, you're going to find smiles, friends, conversation. People from the neighborhood come every week, and we have people who come from all over and people who call in orders from schools, from their offices, from City Hall, sometimes 20 orders at a time.
You've said you might feed between 300 and 500 people each Friday during Lent here, and that sounds like a lot of work. What keeps you motivated?
A: We're a historic church and we're committed to doing all we can to help the church defray expenses, to make sure we'll always have the church here. At the end of the day, this is about supporting our church and about a community coming together. — IAN MCNULTY