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South Texas Living

Honoring Polish heritage

Honoring Polish heritage
Al and Elaine Kolodziej accept an award presented Dec. 30 by Monsignor Franciszek “Father Frank” Kurzaj on behalf of the Father Leopold Moczygemba Foundation, for the newspaper’s promotion of Polish heritage events and groups in South Central Texas. N. KILBEY-SMITH/Reprints at

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January 4, 2012
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The eighth annual Father Leopold Moczygemba Foundation Gala took place Dec. 11 in the St. Paul Catholic Church and Community Center in San Antonio.

A special Mass was celebrated at 3 p.m. honoring the Silesian ancestors who immigrated to Texas in the mid-1800s from Silesia, a southwestern region of Poland. Bishop Emeritus John W. Yanta of the Amarillo Diocese was the main celebrant, and three other priests con-celebrated: Monsignor Franciszek “Father Frank” Kurzaj, the Rev. Robert Ploch, and the Rev. Leon Rubaj.

During the Mass, Father Frank announced more than 130 Silesian Texan surnames, and members of the congregation raised their hands when the names of their ancestors were called --a moving testament to their heritage. A vocal group from Lublin, Poland, sang gloriously in Latin during the Mass.

The gala continued in the St. Paul Community Center, where Father Frank, president of the foundation, welcomed about 300 guests.

The gala committee had draped white linens with scarlet sashes, and the stage glittered with Christmas decor. Members of the dedicated gala committee are Dorothy and James Collins, Gladys Koenig, Emily Kolodziejcyk, Genny Kraus, Evelyn and Rudy Lyssy, Dorothy Moy, Lillian and Elmer Mzyk, Lillian and Al O’Berg, Dorothy Pawelek, Gerry and Robert Piegza, and Lorraine Pruski. Also, Patricia Felux, Sue Mason, and Mary Martinez displayed silent auction items, many of which were from Poland.

The singers from Poland presented an outstanding concert to an appreciative audience. Many of the songs in Polish were Christmas carols, called kolędy. The vocalists are graduates and students of the musicology department of the Catholic University of Lublin, Poland. They include Anna Waloszczyk, Katarzyna Piesta, Anna Kusy, Anna Dzwonkowska-Pucia, Jadwiga Pucia, Paweł Jabłoniec, Stanisław Hajda, Sławomir Kuczek, and Mariusz Pucia, their leader.

Prior to the banquet, the Rev. Arkadiusz “Eric” Szyda, pastor of Holy Name Catholic Church, offered the blessing. During the dinner, a DVD, “Polska? Tak!” was shown, along with pictorial highlights from the 2011 trip to Poland and Germany under the guidance of Father Frank.

After dinner, Father Frank presented the 2011 Father Leopold Moczygemba Foundation Outstanding Service Awards to Lorraine Pruski and Evelyn Lyssy for their exceptional contributions to the Silesian community.

Two more Outstanding Service Awards were announced, although the recipients were not present -- Elaine Kolodziej, publisher of the Wilson County News, and Stephen Pruski, for his service to the Silesians of Texas.

Four scholarship winners were recognized for their stellar essays in the foundation’s annual essay contest. Winners in attendance were Kathryn Moczygemba and Jordan Haley Sheppard, graduates of La Vernia High School and now college freshmen. The remaining scholarship recipients are Katherine Stepke and Sarah Pruski.

The closing prayer was composed and offered by Sister Angelee Kowalik, CSSF, followed by the attendees’ singing of “Serdeczna Matko” (“Beloved Mother”) in Polish.

For more information, visit or

Janet Dawson Ebrom is a member of the Father Leopold Moczygemba Foundation.

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