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After 40 days of Lent (“Wielki Post”), a period of contemplation of the agony, crucifixion, and death of Jesus Christ, Easter celebrates Christ’s resurrection from the tomb. Easter is a festive holiday. The exact translation of the Polish word for Easter (“Wielkanoc”) is Great Night. Easter celebrates Christ’s victory over sin.
The three days prior to Easter are the Triduum. Holy Thursday (“Wielki Czwartek”) recalls the Last Supper and the institution of the sacrament of Holy Orders. Good Friday (“Wielki Piątek”) is the day of Christ’s crucifixion and death. Good Friday is a day of fast and abstinence from eating meat. On Holy Saturday (“Wielka Sobota”), no religious services are held. Jesus lies in the tomb. Holy Saturday is the traditional day for the ritual blessing of Easter food.
“Święconka” is the Polish word for the blessing of food on Holy Saturday. “Święcona”, although similar in spelling, means something different. “Święcona” is the Easter breakfast. The Polish Cultural Association – later renamed Polish American Association of Harrisburg – combines the celebration of these Easter customs at its annual celebration. The blessing of the food always precedes the meal. The blessing has been conducted over the years by reverends Paul Shuda, Walter Sempko, Matthias Siedlicki, and Hubert Kealey.
During its first 20 years the association usually held this event one or two Sundays before Easter on Palm Sunday or Passion Sunday. The buffet is decorated with pussy willows and garlands of green leaves. The centerpiece is the Paschal Lamb made of butter or cake. The lamb is depicted with the flag which signifies Jesus’s victory over death. The blood of the lamb saved the Israelites in the Old Testament. In the New Testament Jesus Christ is the Paschal sacrifice.
“Święconka” 1978, 1979, and 1980, were held at the United Republic Life Insurance Building. Rose Bobroski, Marcella Wall, Helen Wachter, and Irene Petrina organized the 1978 dinner held Sunday, March 19. Rose Bobroski chaired “Święconka” 1979 held April 8. President Eugene Urbanski offered welcome. Next came the sharing of the Easter eggs.
Father Paul Shuda blessed the food at “Święconka” 1980 held Sunday, March 30 at the United Republic Life Insurance Building at 2:00 p.m. The committee was Henia Kania, Lorraine Buchinski, Irene Petrina, Helen Wachter, and Marcella Wall. The menu included “kiełbasa” (sausage), sauerkraut with mushrooms (“kapusta z grzybami”), cauliflower (“kalafior”), potato salad and cole slaw, pickled beets (“ćwikła”), and dumplings (“pierogi”). “Szynka” (ham) symbolizes the freedom of New Life from Jesus’s resurrection and victory over sin. “Kiełbasa” (sausage) is a Slavic enhancement.
“Święconka” 1981 dinner was held Sunday, April 12 at Our Lady of Blessed Sacrament Church located at North Third and Woodbine streets, about 500 meters from the Governor’s Residence at North Second and Maclay streets along the Susquehanna River. Mary Jane Przybyla and Theresa Malesic were in charge. Although Mary Jane Przybyla was not of Polish ancestry, her marriage to Bill Przybyla, born in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, paved the way for her introduction to Polish customs.
President Josephine “Jo” Blake in newsletter number 46 dated April 29, praised the work of Mary Jane Przybyla in organizing the dinner. President Blake noted that, although she and Paula Barski had each cooked a pot of barszcz, the supply was quickly consumed. Of the 100 in attendance, the guests exceeded the members.
Father Hubert Kealy permitted the use of Our Lady of Blessed Sacrament Church hall for the Easter dinner on March 27, 1983 during the presidency of Ron Skubecz. Jo Blake was the chair with help from Marcella Wall, Irene Petrina, Helen Wachter, Donna Strzelecka, Bozena Laszczak, Marie Dudzinska, Johanna Petrilak, Mary Jane Przybyla, Theresa Malesic, and Lorraine Buchinski. Monsignor Matthias Siedlicki drove from Kulpmont the following year on Sunday, April 15, 1984 to celebrate Mass and bless the food at Our Lady of Blessed Sacrament Church. Helen Wachter and Theresa Malesic organized “Święconka” 1984.
Mary Jane Przybyla coordinated “Święconka” 1985 on the Sunday after Easter, April 14 at Our Lady of Blessed Sacrament Church. Carl Judy’s article in “PENNSYLVANIA BEACON”, Wednesday, April 17, 1985 included four photos. An Easter egg hunt for children followed the dinner in 1983, 1984, and 1985.
“Święconka” 1990 on Sunday, April 22 was held at Our Lady of Blessed Sacrament Church.
“Święconka” 1992 on Sunday, May 3 was again held at Our Lady of Blessed Sacrament Church hall. Father Walter Sempko blessed the food. The volunteers included Paula and Stanley Barski, Ernie and Jo Blake, Helen Wachter, Irene Petrina, Lorraine Buchinski, Mary Jo Duszak, John Garcy, Jim Zawacki, Suzanne Simoni, and Cathy Winieski. Jim Zawacki prepared home-made horseradish made from beets. Since May 3 is the anniversary of the Polish Constitution, known as “Trzeciego Maja,” Mary Ann Zoll presented a brief speech on the Constitution’s significance in Polish history. “Sto lat” (Happy Birthday) was sung for Suzanne Simoni’s daughter, Heather.
“Święconka” 1993 on Sunday, April 18 was held at Knights of Columbus in Middletown. Attendance was 25.
“Święconka” 1995 was held Sunday, April 23 at Our Lady of Blessed Sacrament Church. Among those in attendance were Tom and Basia Duszak, Hilda Klosowski, Al and Ingrid Kwiatek, Mike and Anna Barta, Lorraine Buchinski and her granddaughter Alexis, Tony Miscavige, Ron Skubecz, Mirek Chmielewski, Tadeusz Jagiello, Stanley Barski, and Helen Walczak.
Bogumila “Bo” Mangam was the featured speaker on the topic of Lent and Easter customs at the dinner meeting held at Capital Blue Cross on March 27, 1996. “Święconka” 1996 was held Palm Sunday, March 31 at 2:00 p.m. at the Knights of Columbus Hall on Route 230 in Middletown. Johanna Petrilak coordinated the dinner. The use of the hall was arranged with the cooperation of Arthur Wrzesniewski. The menu featured ham, kiebasa, sauerkraut with mushrooms, cauliflower, potatoes, stewed fruit, pickled beets, pierogi, and Easter eggs.
The Wednesday, April 3, 1996 edition of the Harrisburg PATRIOT NEWS discussed the Easter memories of members Halina Wyczalkowski, Helen Wachter, Bo Mangam, and Wanda Arecki.
On Palm Sunday, March 23, “Święconka” 1997 was held at the home of member Joanna Kmieciak because the hall reservation had been cancelled at the last minute.
At the association’s monthly meeting held on Tuesday, March 10, 1998 at Harrisburg Area Community College, Agata Czopek-Knight discussed “pisanki”. Five weeks later, the April 18, 1998 issue of the Harrisburg Sunday PATRIOT NEWS discussed Agata’s Easter experiences.
Agata Czopek returned for an encore appearance at the membership meeting held at Harrisburg Area Community College in spring 2000. The Easter egg is a symbol of the risen Christ. Colored eggs in the Polish tradition are called by a variety of names. “Malowanki” have colorful designs painted on top. “Kraszonki” are single color eggs made from dye. The dyes were made from roots and herbs in centuries past. “Pisanki” are batik eggs on which wax is applied in patterns with a stylus. “Oklejanki” and “nalepianki” are eggs with the shell decorated with colored paper or straw.
Thirty-five members attended “Święconka” 2001 held at the Hampden Township Hall in Mechanicsburg.
“Święconka” 2002 was held on Palm Sunday, March 24 in St. Leo Hall after Mass in English and Polish in St. Catherine Laboure Parish. The Mass, which began at 2:00 p.m., was concelebrated by Father Walter Sempko and visiting Franciscan Father Winicjusz. “Święconka” lasted from 3:00-5:00 p.m. Attendance at Mass was 125, but only 100 stayed for “Święconka”. Pat Kee prepared baskets for the children.
Roman Nishchuk, Polish-Ukrainian pysanky artist from Baltimore, was the guest at “Święconka” 2003 on Saturday, April 12. Norman and Pat Kee prepared baskets for the children. The kitchen and set-up crew included Mary Modica and her family, Joe Boshinski, and Meredith Hill Poole.
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