What started out as a casual Friday night outing, turned into something of a celebrity sighting last week at the Knights of Columbus Hall in Kankakee.

This Lent, the hall’s annual fish fry returned after a two-year hiatus caused by mitigations from COVID-19. That came as good news to the Knights, who have raised $10,000 in the past from these weekly dinners. But it also benefits the surrounding communities, who enjoy the chance to connect with people from the surrounding parishes and support the Knights in their work.

Fr. Jason Nesbit, Br. John Eustice, Fr. Moses Mesh and Fr. Dan Belanger

On this particular Friday night, four Viatorians showed up for the fish fry: Br. John Eustice, Fr. Moses Mesh and Fr. Jason Nesbit, all of Maternity BVM Parish, and Fr. Dan Belanger, of St. George Parish.

As they entered the hall and began heading upstairs, heads turned, and people commented, “Oh, the Viatorians are here!”

“So many people stopped us — from St. Pat’s, St. George and Maternity,” Br. Eustice said. “It was crazy. It probably took us 10 minutes just to climb one flight of stairs.”

It turns out these Viatorians were returning to their roots, in a way. This particular Knights of Columbus Hall is called the St. Viateurs Council. It reflects the French spelling of the Viatorians and was named in back in 1903 when it was established.

Knights of Columbus, St. Viateurs Council in Kankakee

The Knights chose to dedicate their council to the religious community that had come to the Bourbonnais/Kankakee area back in 1865, establishing Maternity BVM Parish that year and in 1868 starting St. Viator College. Viatorians have led Maternity BVM Parish ever since and have served in surrounding parishes for more than 100 years.

Even so, on this Friday night in Lent, when so much has changed after two years of the pandemic, this much remained the same: parishioners in the Bourbonnais/Kankakee area appreciate the Viatorians — and their deep commitment to building up communities of faith.