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Corned beef or fish this St. Patrick's Day? For area Catholics, it depends on your diocese


St. Louis Archbishop Robert Carlson has given members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians a special dispensation to allow them to eat corned beef with their cabbage on Friday, but most Catholics in the archdiocese will be required to abstain from meat on this Lenten St. Patrick’s Day.

Across the river in Belleville, Bishop Edward Braxton has given all Catholics in his diocese a dispensation. But Bishop Thomas Paprocki is granting no dispensations to Catholics in the Springfield, Illinois, diocese.

When St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Friday in Lent, the Catholic Church leaves it up to local bishops to grant dispensations from the law of abstinence from meat.

This year, Carlson is granting a St. Patrick’s Day dispensation on a case-by-case basis to specific organizations and events — and only upon request, according to a spokesman for the archdiocese. Catholics partaking in those events are being told to abstain from meat on one of the succeeding six days.

At St. James the Greater parish in Dogtown, there will be a corned beef and cabbage dinner on Friday, instead of a fish fry. Old St. Ferdinand Shrinewill serve a corned beef and cabbage lunch. However, it will be Lenten fish fries, as usual, at most St. Louis parishes.

Braxton’s dispensation covers all Catholics who reside in the Belleville diocese, “as well as those who are present in the diocese” on St. Patrick’s Day. He noted that the dispensation should not be taken as an “excuse for self-indulgence” and asks parish communities that celebrate St. Patrick’s Day “to do so with moderation, keeping in mind that we are in the Season of Lent.”

The dispensation is good news for the Men’s Club of St. Luke’s Parish in Belleville, which holds an annual corned beef and cabbage dinner on St. Patrick’s Day.

“We don’t like to call if off,’’ said Ron Kahrhoff, who is organizing the event. “This dinner is our biggest event of the year for raising money for our church. The Men’s Club puts it on, and the ladies help out. And the ladies also raffle off their quilts that they’ve made for the entire year.’’

Kahrhoff says the event usually serves between 400 and 500 people, with the profits going to the church.

He remembers one year when the bishop didn’t give a dispensation.

“They said, ‘You’ll just have to have your dinner on Saturday.' Well, that didn’t work out. Nobody showed up on Saturday for St. Patrick’s Day when it was on Friday,’’ he said.

Monsignor David Hoefler, diocesan vicar general of the Springfield, Illinois, diocese, informed parishes and priests in February that that there would be no dispensation on Friday, March 17. He encouraged Catholics in the diocese to honor St. Patrick with “the sacrifice of abstinence from eating meat.’’

Follow Mary Delach Leonard on Twitter: @marydleonard 

Mary Delach Leonard is a veteran journalist who joined the St. Louis Beacon staff in April 2008 after a 17-year career at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, where she was a reporter and an editor in the features section. Her work has been cited for awards by the Missouri Associated Press Managing Editors, the Missouri Press Association and the Illinois Press Association. In 2010, the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis honored her with a Spirit of Justice Award in recognition of her work on the housing crisis. Leonard began her newspaper career at the Belleville News-Democrat after earning a degree in mass communications from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, where she now serves as an adjunct faculty member. She is partial to pomeranians and Cardinals.