Trivia: Can you eat alligator on Fridays during Lent?

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Sunday, February 23, 2014

Theresa Yerkes, Tess Barber, Frank Barber and Stephen Wauck discuss a question during a night of Catholic Pub Trivia at De La Salle Institute behind St. Mary of Perpetual Help Church, 1039 W. 32nd Place, on Feb.15. Proceeds went to the Missionaries of Charity. (Karen Callaway/Catholic New World)

What do reptiles, travel and wine and spirits have to do with Catholicism?

Quite a lot, at least for participants in a Feb. 15 Catholic Pub Trivia Night at St. Mary of Perpetual Help Parish, 1039 W. 32nd Place.

The 50 or so participants answered questions in those and other categories in an effort to prove their Catholic knowledge, and win a modest cash prize. But the point of the event, according to St. Mary of Perpetual Help pastor Father Thomas Aschenbrenner and hosts Mike O’Neill and Erica Laethem O’Neill, was to have fun and raise money for the Missionaries of Charity home for women in crisis pregnancies.

The O’Neills have hosted several sessions of Catholic Pub Trivia, but all the previous have been held at an actual pub. This was the first parish-based event.

Reviews were positive. About half the crowd came from the parish, half came from elsewhere, including people who had played Catholic Pub Trivia at the Blue Star Wine Bar, a watering hole near St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish on the Near North Side.

For $15 each, participants got a homemade pasta dinner and fresh dessert and the chance to compete in teams of six for a total prize of $300 by answering questions such as “True or False: It is acceptable to eat alligator on a Friday of Lent” (True. That question was in the reptile category).

Mike O’Neill said he and Erica, his wife, first came up with the idea for Catholic Pub Trivia on a road trip to Michigan to visit Erica’s parents. They are both committed Catholics and trivia buffs, and Laethem O’Neill was trying to entertain her husband by offering Catholic trivia questions while he drove.

“We wondered if anybody else would be as entertained by it as we were,” Mike O’Neill said.

It turned out that they were, with many of the bar-based events drawing 100-200 people.

The turnout at St. Mary of Perpetual Help was smaller, but no less enthusiastic, especially on a snowy night.

O’Neill said that he has noticed that the people who come to the event on their own and join forces often end up doing well, perhaps because they are bigger trivia enthusiasts or just have more diverse areas of knowledge. For others, it’s just a fun social event with friends.

That’s why the O’Neills work so hard to come up with a variety of questions that relate to Catholicism but also touch on pop culture, sports and other subject areas. It’s not all about the dogma, O’Neill said.

One group, who know each other from the young adult group at St. Mary of the Angels Parish, made the trip down to St. Mary of Perpetual Help because they have participated in previous Catholic Pub Trivia nights.

“A bunch of us have been together for many years,” said Adrian Blanarovich.

“We did it with some friends one time at Blue Star Wine Bar and it was fun,” said Michael Shipley.

Laethem O’Neill said she doesn’t know when or where the next trivia night will be. She and her husband both have full-time jobs and a young son, and it takes some time to put each event together.

“We write all the questions and we have to research all the background information,” she said. “It really is time-consuming, but we do it a little bit at a time and it gets done.”


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