Lenten Fish Fry Oil Fuels Pittsburgh

The Catholic season of Lent is a period of a little more than 40 days when believers are expected to give up whatever stands in the way of their relationships with God. In Pittsburgh, 25 church communities have taken a nonprofit environmental group's invitation to give up their deep fryer fat oil for Lent and recycle it for use in reformatted diesel vehicles. In this city where nearly every church has a Friday fish fry during Lent, that can add up to a lot of oil. The Allegheny Front's Ashley Murray visited one of the parishes that's recycling its oil, St. Mary of the Mount, at high fry time.

Read the transcript »Close the Transcript



Coller: Hi. Wayne Coller.

Murray: How many years have you been frying the fish?

Coller: Ohhh about six, seven years that I've been here. We come up Thursday night prep the fish. Well, obviously, Tuesday night this week cause of Ash Wednesday. Cut the fish, get it all ready to either bake or fry. And the fried fish is first dredged in flour and our secret batter and dropped into the deep fryer and cooked golden brown.

(NAT SOUND: "Order up Larry! Order Up!")

King: Basically, I call this the pit. We just get the orders from the kids, give them to the girls in the kitchen here. They fill everything, we give it back to them. Call the kid's name out and get 'em to the people at the table.

(NAT SOUND: "Why is thee stewed tomatoes on this?" "Doesn't it say stewed tomatoes?" "No, that's a plus. Hulushki and French fries." "Oh thanks.")

Sestric: I'm getting two fried fish sandwich meals with French fries on both and it's very popular.

Murray: About how many customers come through here are get fish each year?

Sestric: Each year? How about per day. there's probably about three to five hundred aday, every Friday and on Ash Wednesday. (to Larry: "Here you go. Thank you.") Yes, it's very good. It's very very popular. Crab cakes! We have crab cakes too!

Stumpf: Father Michael Stumpf. So I've been pastor here for about five and a half years. The inspiration of donating the oil was actually more the company than it was us. They actually approached us as far as donating the oil goes, just to fuel machines and things like that. So I have to be honest, I had nothing to do with it. Just the people, the volunteers who run the fish fry, the business manager, they said absolutely. But I think they also know, in some ways, my heart for, as a church starting to do things that are better care and stewardship of creation.

Murray: How much do you expect to donate?

Stumpf: So actually twice during the Fish Fry. So after the fourth week, and after it's over. That's like 7 five gallon buckets of oil during each of those. So, it's 14 if my math is correct.

Seiple: Refuel Pittsburgh is teaming up with the Pittsburgh Lenten Fish Fry Society which is a group of friends that started going o Fish Fries every year. What ReFuel wanted to do was show our support for the people that were recycling their waste oil, and unfortunately we can't go to all the places that will be recycling because there are currently now over 20. But we decided to get a group going and just show our support as a larger group.

Skip: Well, the other choice was to find it some place in the trash, in the dumpster, in a landfill. We're trying the best we can not to do that kind of thing. And, it's not an easy project, but this one is because it's part of what we would normally do. We empty the oil. It's there, either into the trash or to the recycle

Murray: Do you feel that's making the parish a better part of the community?

Skip: Makes me feel good, yea. Like I'm doing a little something. It's not everything but it helps.

Rosemary: My name is Rosemary. I came into the world in this parish on Grandview Avenue, and I am now 84 years old. Anything that was important in my life happened in this parish.

Murray: Did you know about the oil from the fish fry being donated to an organization called ReFuel Pittsburgh?

Rosemary: I am thrilled to know. I mean really what a beautiful thing to accomplish when you think of how important it is to our atmosphere, to our world. It's fantastic.