West Side Detroit Polish American
Holds Fifth Annual Opłatek – Wednesday, December 29, 2010
And Seeks Relatives of St. Andrew Organist Honorees
Over 100 guests, including Society
members, family and friends, came out on a beautiful afternoon to enjoy
music and camaraderie and to help usher in the New Year with the West Side
Detroit Polish American Historical Society. This year’s event, which marked
the fifth anniversary of the organization’s Annual Opłatek, took place on
Wednesday, December 29, at the Society’s headquarters—the beautiful,
historic St. Hedwig Catholic Church at 3245 Junction in Detroit.
At 2 p.m., guests began gathering in the
splendidly decorated church, which each year at Christmastime undergoes a
remarkable transformation by Adam Lis, the Society’s President and
archivist, who also serves as St. Hedwig’s historian. Dozens of Christmas
trees, hundreds of lights, wreaths, poinsettia plants, and a magnificent
historic szopka, created by Fr. Aloysius Romanowski, OFM CONV, Pastor of St.
Hedwig from 1990 to 1994, are among the features of the decorations, which
are truly breathtaking.
The highlights of the event this year
included sharing of the opłatki wafers, which were blessed by Rev. Gary
Michalik, a director of the Society, after President Lis welcomed the
guests. No other event contains such richness and such an amount of
time-honored customs, lore and legend as Wigilia, which includes the sharing
of the opłatek wafer by family and friends. It symbolizes the Christ Child
and is shared as a token of goodwill with exchanges of mutual wishes for
happiness and health. As those of Polish descent and their friends and
family join together and remember their dearly departed, the wafer also
represents mutual sacrifice and sharing—even the last scrap of bread.
The Society continued its tradition, as it
has done for the past three years at this event, of honoring organists who
have served in west side Detroit Polish parishes throughout the decades.
WSDPAHS member Steve Frayer, a longtime organist in Southwest Detroit’s
parishes, gave a heartfelt and very touching introduction, which brought
many to tears, after which he and Vice President & Executive
Director/Secretary Laurie A. Gomulka presented certificates to the honorees’
family members, since all this year’s honorees were being recognized
The honorees for this year were Mr.
Vincent Chomicz (First Organist at St. Andrew, Detroit); Mr. Teofil
Tarnowski (St. Andrew, Detroit: 1953 – 1959); Mr. Edmund Partyka (St.
Andrew, Detroit); Mr. Marvin Darowski (St. Andrew, Detroit); Ms. Renea Ann
Wotus (Sacred Heart of Jesus, P.N.C.C., Warrendale: 1973 – 1984); Our
Savior P.N.C.C., Dearborn: 1984 – 2010); and Sr. Mary Paulette (Veronica
Krakowski) (St. Helen, Wyandotte – 1936 – 1937; St. Louis the King, Detroit
– 1939 – 1943; Madonna University Felician Sisters’ Provincial Motherhouse –
1950 – 2002).
Ms. Laurie A. Gomulka explained that this
year marked a milestone in that if St. Andrew Parish on McGraw at Larkins in
Southwest Detroit had remained open, it would be celebrating its 90th
anniversary. To commemorate the occasion, in November, the Society and Ss.
Peter & Paul Parish in the Warrendale District of Detroit held a memorial
Mass in honor of St. Andrew’s 90th anniversary. Many parishioners from St.
Andrew joined Ss. Peter & Paul Parish following St. Andrew’s closure, and
the statue of St. Andrew that previously resided in the church now holds a
position beside at altar of Ss. Peter & Paul. Therefore, it was fitting
that the anniversary Mass be held at Ss. Peter & Paul.
Although the Society attempted to locate
family members of the four organists from St. Andrew who were honored at the
Annual Opłatek, they were not able to do so. Therefore, the certificates of
those four organists will reside in the Heritage Room at St. Hedwig, the
Society’s headquarters, unless family members come forward to claim them.
Should anyone reading this wish to claim a certificate, please contact a
Society member via e-mail or telephone at 1-855-POLONIA (765-6642) or via
the contact information listed on the home page of the Web site.
Next, President Lis presented framed
memorials to two historic west side churches: St. Hedwig and St. Francis
d’Assisi. He explained that one of the Society’s missions is to honor
historic west side churches, and in keeping with that mission the memorials
were being presented. The memorial to St. Hedwig will hang in the Heritage
Room, and the one to St. Francis will be presented to that parish.
Guests had the great privilege and honor
of being entertained at the Annual Opłatek by Dr. David Troiano, who gave an
organ performance of musical selections that included some kolędy arranged
by Gustaw Rogúski, Edwin Kraft, Felix Nowowiejski, and Mieczysław Surzyñski,
as well as some newly discovered Polish Dances from the Polish Museum of
America archives. Numbers included Polonez and Kujawiak by Michal Oginski
and Kurpik Oberek and Krakowiak by Zygmunt Noskowski. This was followed by
a kolędy sing-along led by Mr. Steve Frayer, who sang and gave an organ
performance that included the following kolędy: Dzisiaj w Betlejem, Gdy się
Chrystus Rodzi, and Pójdźmy wszyscy.
After Rev. Michalik gave some closing
remarks, all were invited to the Heritage Room and were warmly welcomed by
Mr. and Mrs. Bob Bielenda and other Society board members. Hors d’oeuvres,
Christmas cookies, and hot coffee were served as everyone mingled and
enjoyed some wonderful hospitality.
The Society is grateful to all who helped
to make this year’s event another huge success, and we all look forward to
next year’s event!