St. Noel's Handbell Choir
One of the first things that we did on Sunday morning, January 18th, was to head over to St. Casimir Church on Sowinski Avenue because St. Noel's Handbell Choir would be performing there. During the service they performed a musical number while the offering was being taken as well as an assortment of songs; including several Christmas carols such as "Jingle Bells"; at a special mini-concert after the service. It was especially fun when Ms. Elke White, the handbell choir director, passed out handbells to a few of St. Casimir's parishioners (children were targeted) so they could accompany the choir in a performance of "Silent Night." We spoke to for a moment to Ms. White and to Ms. Agnieszka Bieniek, the musical director at St. Noel, and learned that half of the people in the handbell choir were actually from St. Barnabas Church working under the direction of Mr. Drew Gabele who we met also. Ms. Bieniek was delighted when we told her that we were from Margaret W. Wong and Associates and told us to be sure to give Ms. Wong her best. She told us that she had immigrated to the United States from Poland about 11 years ago and, while not a U.S. citizen, is the proud holder of a green card. When it came for thanks to be given during the service, Father Eric Orzech introduced Mr. Ricardo Ramos and his family. He recalled that it was just a year ago that St. Casimir Church intervened to help stop the deportation of Mr. Ramos. After the service a luncheon was served in celebration of "Oplatek" which, as our friend Mr. Joe Feckanin told us, symbolizes the breaking of bread during the holiday season and people laying aside their differences and coming together. There was also a "Jaselka" or nativity scene and a small pageant which Father Orzech said would be the climax of the holiday season. Since, for many of us, the Christmas and New Year holidays were over by January 2nd, we were curious as to why the holidays were still being celebrated at St. Casimir Church so we asked our friend, Dr. Mitch Bienia about this. Dr. Bienia told us that in Catholic countries like Poland the holidays do not start until December 24th and continue until February 2nd which is Candlemass Day. He went on to say that the Polish veterans groups in Cleveland all celebrate the holidays in January. The decorations around the St. Casimir Church altar were still beautiful and shone brightly so we asked Dr. Bienia if they would be up until February 2nd. Dr. Bienia checked on it and he said that, by and large, they would be.