Tag Archives: churches

Lenten Fish Fries

March 16, 2017 by
Photography by Joshua Foo

Lent in Omaha—a time of repentance and moderation for devout Catholics—is synonymous with crowded lines of happy, drunken people waiting for heaping piles of deep-fried fish.

Parishioners and non-churchgoers alike rejoice with the approach of Ash Wednesday. Non-Catholics who have never joined in the fun should not hesitate. All are welcome. Lenten fish fries (complete with raffles, pickle cards, and bake sales) are the biggest fundraising event of the year for many Catholic churches, schools, and charities in Omaha.

The beer-infused Friday fry-day gatherings are a popular annual ritual in Midwestern cities with robust Catholic communities. Omaha’s large Catholic population means that several dozen churches will host fish fries throughout the 40 days of Lenten fast (six weeks). Meanwhile, there are plenty of other community groups, such as the local Disabled American Veterans, hosting their own Lenten fish fries.

Some start the Friday before Ash Wednesday. Most begin after Ash Wednesday formally initiates the Lenten season. Some conclude after only a few weeks; others continue for the entire duration of the Lenten fast, including Good Friday two days before Easter.

Not all of them are bacchanals, with children running wild while parents and young adults socialize. A few are alcohol-free. But all are genuine family-friendly celebrations of community.

Expect to spend a few hours standing and waiting in line at Omaha’s most-popular fish fries. The long wait—and the chance to meet new friends while drinking beer—is sometimes the most fun part of the evening.

Omaha Magazine has compiled a list of six must-try fish fries for every week during Lent. But the list is hardly exhaustive. Other excellent fish fries are plentiful in the Omaha area. For those in a hurry, seeking out lesser-known gatherings might even save on the wait time. Or you might just discover a new Lenten favorite.

HOLY NAME CATHOLIC CHURCH (2017 Best of Omaha Winner)

2901 Fontenelle Blvd., Omaha, NE 68104 . 402.451.6622 . holynameomaha.org

Omaha’s oldest Lenten fish fry event, the Holy Name “Fryday” is famous for its jam-packed line, fried Alaskan pollock, french fries, coleslaw, and Rotella’s bread. The BYOB line makes the event especially unique for the 21-and-over crowd. Those arriving at 6 p.m. can expect to find a line stretching out the church, through the adjacent Holy Name Elementary School, and circling around the building. A wait time of three hours is not unusual. The initiated come prepared with coolers full of beer to sustain drinking through the long wait. Upon entering the main building, a free cup of beer is offered. Another free cup of beer is offered if there’s a line out the cafeteria. More beer is sold inside the cafeteria, and a storeroom accommodates winter coats and coolers. Nebraska politicians are known to make appearances at the event, which averages an attendance of 2,300 people per night. Fridays (5-8 p.m.), February 24 (pre-Lenten) to April 7

MARY OUR QUEEN CATHOLIC CHURCH (2017 Best of Omaha Winner)

3405 S. 118th St., Omaha, NE 68144 . 402.333.8662 . maryourqueenchurch.com

A packed line meanders through the halls of Mary Our Queen School, where intermittent refreshment tables allow visitors to replenish their beer pitchers/cups in one of Omaha’s most-popular Lenten fish fries. Young volunteers walk up and down the school’s hallway to collect emptied pitchers. Popcorn is available in the line near the cafeteria. A drive-through allows motorists to avoid the packed halls. Food options include: fried or baked fish, macaroni and cheese, spudsters, fries, coleslaw, bread, with assorted soft drinks and desserts also available for sale. Fridays (5-8 p.m.), March 3 to April 7

ST. PATRICK’S CHURCH OF ELKHORN (2017 Best of Omaha Winner)

20500 West Maple Road, Elkhorn, NE 68022 . 402.289.4289 . stpatselkhorn.org

The fish fry at St. Patrick’s features fried or baked catfish and/or pollock. Margaritas and a variety of beers offer a change of pace from the adult beverages typically available at area fish fries. Cheese pizza, fries, coleslaw, macaroni and cheese, and dessert round out the available food options. There’s a drive-through, and there are clowns and face-painting for the kids inside. Fridays (5-9:30 p.m.), March 3 to April 7

ST. VINCENT DE PAUL CATHOLIC CHURCH

14330 Eagle Run Drive, Omaha, NE 68164 . 402.496.7988 . svdpomaha.org

A cheerful and welcoming atmosphere radiates from the jam-packed line snaking through the halls of St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School. The event features $3 cups, $8 bottles of wine, and $8 pitchers of Boulevard, Lucky Bucket, or Bud Light beer. For those seeking better quality beer on the cheap, St. Vincent de Paul’s fish fry is an excellent choice. Food options include fried or baked fish, cheese pizza, macaroni and cheese, coleslaw, and fries or baked potato, with assorted soft drinks and desserts also available for sale. Credit cards accepted. Fridays (5:30-8:30 p.m.), March 3 to April 7

ST. JOHN’S GREEK ORTHODOX CHURCH

602 Park Ave., Omaha, NE 68105 . 402.345.7103 . stjohnsgreekorthodox.org

Alcohol is not sold at the event; however, St. John’s offers possibly the most delicious food available at any Omaha area Lenten fish fry. The church also offers historic tours of its Byzantine-style building from 5:30-6:30 p.m. A kitchen full of volunteers (some of whom grew up in Greece and migrated to the United States) cook and serve plaki—a Greek baked cod with Mediterranean sauce. Also available: panko-fried cod, breaded-fried shrimp, baked salmon, and vegetable moussaka (an eggplant lasagna), spanakopita (a pie filled with spinach and feta cheese), and piropita (cheese baked in phyllo dough). Specialty cheesecakes and baklava sundaes await at the dessert bar. Fridays (4:30 to 8 p.m.), March 3 to April 7

HOLY GHOST CATHOLIC CHURCH

5219 S. 53rd St., Omaha, NE 68117 . 402.731.3176 . holyghostomaha.com

Clam chowder is one of the unique offerings at Holy Ghost Parish’s annual Lenten fish fry. The varied menu offers: shrimp, baked or fried cod, macaroni and cheese, or a combo dinner. Each dinner comes with baked potato, salad, fruit bar, and a drink. Beer, margaritas, and “watermelons” (a mixed drink) are sold. While the line is long, the wait is neither the longest nor the most beer-soaked in town. Expedited takeout service is available at the west end of the church. Fridays (4-8 p.m.), February 24 (pre-Lenten) to April 7.

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.

Omaha’s Lost Religious Buildings

March 17, 2016 by

Despite Omaha’s deserved early reputation as a city of crime and vice, it was also a city with a thriving religious community. Or, more properly, a variety of religious communities, as Omaha has always been home to practitioners of many faiths.

We can go all the way back to 1854 to find the first sermon preached in Omaha, predating the building of churches: It was a quarry owner named Peter Cooper, a Methodist who gathered fellow Methodists from Council Bluffs for services. In pioneer days, small towns and new cities often didn’t have permanent clergy, and the Methodist and Episcopal churches responded by sending out itinerant ministers, often meeting in private houses. This practice was called “circuit riding,” and circuit riders added Omaha to their routes within six months of Cooper’s sermon.

Here is a look at some of Omaha’s past churches and other places of religious worship. Some have closed, while others have been repurposed.

Emmanuel Lutheran Church:

Possibly the first Lutheran congregation west of the Missouri, Emanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church was built in 1858. The church was built with generous donations and encouragement from a specific parishioner, Augustus Kountze, who was then starting to have success in the banking industry. The congregation lives on at 2650 Farnam St. in a new structure built in 1906, now called Kountze Memorial Lutheran Church.

St. Mary Eastern Orthodox Church:

Starting in the 1930s, Omaha became home to a large number of Syrian/Lebanese-American Christian Orthodox families. The congregation is an excellent example of a longstanding tradition in religion: Repurposing existing churches or temples. In 1957, the congregation of St. Mary purchased the former Lutheran Memorial Church and rectory on 52nd and Seward streets.
They used this for years, until the congregation outgrew the space, and then repurposed another church in 1977: Countryside Briardale United Church of Christ on Pacific Street. And, in fact, the location is occupied by another church previously used by another congregation: the Living Faith Assembly of God Church on Boyd Street, purchased in 1985.

St. Mary Catholic Church:

There was an attempt to build a Catholic church in Omaha in 1855, but the priest who instigated it, The Rev. William Emonds, was called away and the project was abandoned. In 1856, however, the church received a donation of two lots on Eighth and Howard streets, from the Nebraska and Iowa Ferry Co., and there they built a small church called St. Mary, largely with the support of Omaha’s Irish population. The church was converted into a parochial school when St. Philomena church was built in 1867, and served several additional purposes before being torn down around 1882.

Temple Israel:

While the congregation of Temple Israel now has a synagogue on Sterling Ridge Drive in Omaha, they built their first house of worship–and the first synagogue in Nebraska–back in 1871. The first location was at 23rd and Harney streets, and the congregation moved to a new location at 29th and Jackson  streets in 1908.

RECENT CHURCH AND SYNAGOGUE CLOSINGS in OMAHA

1. First Christian Church, Fremont

Founded 1890. Closed this year due to financial troubles.

2. Blessed Sacrament Church.

Founded 1919. Closed in 2014 to merge with St. Philip Neri Parish.

3. St. Patrick Church.

Founded 1883. Closed in 2014 to merge with St. Frances Cabrini Parish.

4. Temple Israel.

Founded 1871, built Cass Street location in 1951. Moved to new building in 2013; old building recently purchased by Omaha Conservatory of Music.

5. St. Richard Catholic Church.

Established 1961. Closed in 2009 due to decline in parishioners.

Editor’s Note: The original article did not identify the First Christian Church as being in Fremont. The First Christian Church in Omaha is a Mid-Century Modern building completed in 1963 and holds services to this day.

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