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South Texas Living

Polish descendants enjoy annual gala

Polish descendants enjoy annual gala
Receiving an award from the Father Leopold Moczygemba Foundation for “outstanding generosity for building a bridge between Texas and Silesia” is the family of the late Adrian Opiela of Gillett, accepted by his widow, Florence Korzekwa Opiela. The award was a special honor bestowed by the foundation’s president, Monsignor Franciszek “Father Frank” Kurzaj. Mrs. Opiela is pictured here with members of the Polish string quartet, “Apotheosis,” after their concert Dec. 22 at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Floresville

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January 22, 2014
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The annual Father Leopold Moczygemba Foundation Gala took place Dec. 15 in the Father Thomas O’Brien Hall at St. Jerome Catholic Church in Martinez. Approximately 300 people from all over Texas attended for fellowship and entertainment, and to enjoy the rich Silesian Polish heritage.

They began the evening in the church, with Mass celebrated by the Most Rev. John W. Yanta, D.D., Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Amarillo.

Music was provided by a string quartet from Poland, “Apotheosis,” which includes Sara Malinowska, Karolina Hyla, Aleksandra Badura, Nikol Latocha, and vocalist, Agnieszka Hyla. The musicians and singer visited Texas from Dec. 8-23 and shared Christmas greetings from Poland by performing in 14 churches, six nursing homes, a prison, two high schools, many community halls, and several private homes.

At the Mass, all the Silesian Polish families were remembered and honored as the different family surnames were read aloud. In his homily, Bishop Yanta reminded those present of the many blessings they received throughout the years and encouraged them to continue sharing their riches of faith and traditions with the next generations.

Following the Mass, the gala was opened in the O’Brien Hall with a prayer by the Rev. Norbert H. Herman, pastor of both Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Kenedy and St. Anthony Catholic Church in Runge. In 2013, he celebrated the 25th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood. He spent 15 of those years in Peru as a missionary.

Next, the traditional “Opłatek” was shared by everyone in attendance. During the Polish Christmas Eve service, Wigilia, the Opłatek wafer is broken and consumed by friends and family while well-wishes are expressed. This Polish tradition brought much joy and reverence to the special evening. Then the lights were dimmed as the talented musicians from Poland played angelic music for the audience. Their outstanding performance touched everyone.

The meal, prepared and catered by Snoga’s Cafeteria of San Antonio, consisted of Chicken Cordon Bleu, wild rice, cucumber salad, and green beans almondine, with assorted cheesecakes for dessert. A wonderfully prepared silent auction with many donated items bought in Poland was a great addition to the evening.

After the delicious meal, one of the recipients of the 2013 Essay Contest Scholarship for high school seniors, Lauren Elise Voigt of Pflugerville, was introduced. Voigt is now a student at Texas A&M University, majoring in biomedical engineering. Her award-winning essay was titled, “Portrayal of a Silesian-Polish Texan: Theodore Kniejski.” She thanked the foundation for the generous scholarship and expressed her appreciation for the opportunity to participate in the beautiful gala. Another essay contest scholarship recipient also was recognized, Madison Brianne Pollok of Floresville; she was not able to attend.

Another award announcement followed; however, due to health issues of the recipient, the winner of the 2013 Outstanding Service Award was presented not at the gala but at a special concert Dec. 22 by “Apotheosis” at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Floresville. There, the prestigious award for “outstanding generosity for building a bridge between Texas and Silesia” was presented by the foundation president, Monsignor Franciszek “Father Frank” Kurzaj, to the family of the late Adrian Opiela of Gillett. His widow, Florence Korzekwa Opiela, accepted the award with much pride.

Following the award presentation, the gala attendees learned about plans for a 2014 trip to Rome and Poland to attend the canonization of Blessed John Paul II, and the upcoming 160th anniversary of the establishment of Panna Maria, Texas, the oldest Polish settlement in America.

The gala committee was recognized for its outstanding work on this year’s event and everyone was thanked for their continued support and generosity.

Closing remarks and a blessing were given by Bishop Yanta, who has for many decades generously supported all the activities of the foundation.

For more information, visit and www.Silesian

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