No Fish Fry Fridays: Madison churches adapt to online giving

With the loss of Lenten fundraisers, parishes face financial challenges this spring.
Published: Feb. 19, 2021 at 4:08 PM CST|Updated: Feb. 19, 2021 at 5:41 PM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - St. Maria Goretti is one of many churches in the Madison area opting not to hold a fish fry this Lent.

“It’s a difficult decision to make to not have them and not be able to gather the community,” said Father Scott Emerson. “We certainly look forward to the day to get back to those types of events.”

In 2019, the fish fry was known to bring out over 800 people on Friday nights.

“It shows that there’s a long tradition of faith here in the community,” said Fr. Emerson.

Brent King, Communications Director for the Diocese of Madison, says some church communities couldn’t justify trying to hold a fish fry and keep up with COVID-19 safety protocols.

“Those are pretty labor intensive and so some [churches] have scrapped them,” said King. “Some see it as a big investment in time and volunteers without knowing how much it’s going to help.”

This financial loss comes alongside a roughly 5 percent decrease in church offerings since last year as many parishioners are still practicing virtual worship.

“Our parishes and our schools really do rely on regular giving,” King said. “Some are doing very well and some are struggling a lot.”

Within the first few months of the pandemic, King says the Diocese of Madison worked to ensure all churches had an online giving option set up.

Fr. Emerson says his parish has seen steady support, but the church has had to make some changes.

“Certainly you don’t have the in-pew giving that you would have had in the past,” said Fr. Emerson. “We are preparing ourselves to begin anew but also begin where we left off and be stronger where we were before.”

Fr. Emerson says he’s looking forward to bringing the community together in-person again.

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