Diocesan News

Parish Eats Together and It Also Prays Together

Father Raphael Zwolenkiewicz, O.F.M. Conv., says grace before members of the San Damiano community share an Oplatek meal together. (Photo: Antonina Zielinska)

At the San Damiano Mission in Holy Family Church, Greenpoint, parishioners and guests broke bread in the form of an Oplatek, borrowing traditions from the neighborhood’s Slavic heritage.

The Oplatek or Christmas wafer originated in Poland shortly after the nation’s baptism in 966 and later was adopted by the Slovak, Lithuanian and Czech peoples. The wafer has the same consistency as an unconsecrated Communion wafer, although it is a bit lighter and thinner.

After Father Raphael Zwolenkiewicz, O.F.M. Conv., formally welcomed the guests to the table, set up in the church’s main aisle in front of the empty tabernacle, he explained the meaning of Oplatek. Traditionally, the father, or head of the household, would offer a piece of his wafer to his wife and then children in order of age and ask for forgiveness for the year’s transgressions and offer well-wishes for the year to come. Then, the rest of the family would follow suit.

He invited all to break the wafer with each individual at the table and offer good wishes for the year to come.

Parishioner Julio Castillo, originally from Guatemala, said he enjoyed this aspect of the dinner. Not only was it a curiosity that he has never heard of, it forced him to interact with all of the parishioners present on a personal level.

“We are more than neighbors, we are brothers and sisters in the family of God,” said Father Zwolenkiewicz during prayer.

He explained that although the Eastern European traditions were a hook, they were not the main attraction. He wanted the family to eat together. Therefore there were traditional components such as appetizers and soups, and even the table was set in an Eastern European manner. But the main course was Hispanic fare, in an effort to cater to different tastes.

Parishioner May Lam, from Singapore, thought the dinner was fantastic and hopes such events attract more young people. It was part of an ongoing effort to evangelize. Every month the friars invite people to the mission for different activities and work with The Lot radio station across the street.

Parishioner Jeffrey Pearson, who was received into the faith last Easter, came to the dinner with his wife and young

children. He said it was an excellent opportunity to get to better know parishioners whom he sees on a weekly basis.

Father Zwolenkiewicz said he wanted the dinner to be an extension of the 2 p.m. Mass at San Damiano. The dinner started at 3:30. He said it is important to invite people to the Table of the Lord to receive the living God and then it is important to break bread together as one family.