Lent is the prime time for Friday fish fries, but planners of an off-season edition on Friday (May 8) hope the appeal of a casual catfish feast that helps a cause will still draw the crowds.

This week’s lunchtime fish fry is at the St. Joseph Rebuild Center, 1803 Gravier St., and is organized by the Lantern Light Ministry with support from volunteers and a team of local chefs and restaurateurs.

The center, which is adjacent to St. Joseph Church just outside the CBD, provides up to 200 meals a day to homeless people and others in need, and offers assistance ranging from documentation for ID cards to hot showers. It also serves a less pragmatic, but no less vital, need for people living on the streets, according to its leaders.

“It’s a place of welcome, a place of peace,” said Sister Enid Storey, who runs the program with Sister Vera Butler.

The two nuns started the annual fish fry during Lent in 2010 and it remained a low-key fundraiser until a group of chefs — led by Matt Murphy of the Irish House and Justin Kennedy of Parkway Bakery & Tavern — got involved in 2012.

“They’ve just brought it to another level,” said Storey. “As nuns, maybe we tend to be cautious, to hold back on how we planned this. But they encouraged us to make it big, to see how much we can do and how much we can really raise.”

From about 300 plates in those early years, the event peaked at 1,700 plates sold in 2013 (heavy rain last year held numbers down). This year, the chefs are aiming to sell 2,000. That’s one reason they’re now holding it after Lent.

“There’s a lot of competition for fish fries during Lent, but this is something different so we wanted to stand out a bit,” said Kennedy. “We just always want to do more than we did in the past, because it’s all going to the center.”

The meal includes catfish, baked macaroni, corn salad and dessert, for a donation of $10.

The Friday event begins at 11 a.m. at 1803 Gravier St. For orders of 10 or more plates, pre-order beginning on May 7 by calling (504) 273-5573, ext. 116, or order online at lanternlight.org. Pre-order pick-up begins at 10:30 a.m. and there’s a drive-though available for pre-paid orders.

Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter @IanMcNultyNOLA.