By Micaela Colonna
Mason Times staff writer
Each Friday during Lent, the Mason Knights of Columbus Council #9182 hosts a fish fry at St. James Catholic Church. Per tradition, practicing Catholics make sacrifices during Lent and abstain from eating meat on Friday as a reminder of Jesus’ crucifixion.
“We remember the 40 days when Jesus was in the desert,” said Father Kusitino Cobona, the pastor at St. James. “For us, the Lenten season is trying to be with Jesus and having the desert experience by giving up things we love to eat and love to do.”
Ten dollars buys each guest an all-you-can-eat meal of baked and fried fish, shrimp, French fries, macaroni and cheese, green beans, coleslaw, rolls, desserts and drinks. The money is donated to causes in the community.
“We help pregnancy services of greater Lansing, and we work with the mentally impaired,” said Ron Bates, grand knight. “We also provide a lot of support to seminarians, the parish and other community causes. It’s not unusual for us to get requests from individuals within the community asking for support.”
Bates said the Knights of Columbus, formed in the late 1800s by a parish priest, was founded upon the principle of helping others in need. This included supporting families in which the primary breadwinner was injured or killed while working a high-risk job.
“The Knights of Columbus was a fraternal organization that had the opportunity to develop an insurance program to provide support to those families,” said Bates. “And what we’ve done is bridged out from that. We provide support to people across the community who are in need and people who are at the margins of society.”
The Council hosts 10 to 11 fish fries before and during Lent each year, averaging around 6,000 dinners for the season. Guests are parish members and citizens of different religions from across the community.
The Cherry family has been attending St. James’ fish fries for about seven years. Instead of giving something up for Lent, Jamie Willard-Smith, mother of two boys, said she decided to do something different.
“I saw a whole bunch of people on Facebook who were saying that instead of giving up something, why don’t you do something positive?” said Willard-Smith. “So I decided to do something positive for my family. I went on a diet.”
Sue and Gene Cherry, Willard-Smith’s parents, are members of the church. They said they abstain from eating meat on Fridays during Lent because it shows love and respect for Christ. This year, they decided to give back to the community instead of giving something up.
“We’re helping with the Rice Bowl cause,” said Sue Cherry. “What we’re trying to do is donate money for certain things like how many years we’ve been married. We will put 25 cents in for each year, and that money will go overseas to feed the hungry.”
Cobona decided to give up beef this year, something he said was a personal sacrifice. But he said these sacrifices are minimal compared to what Catholics see as the biggest sacrifice of all, Jesus’ crucifixion.
“We make those sacrifices during Lent to prepare for the mission of Holy Week, Easter and to celebrate the life of Christ,” said Cobona.