West Side Detroit Polish American Historical Society 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 posthumously.
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 Surzyňski, 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!