Catholic Free Press

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  • Apr
  • 27

Seder tradition continues at Sacred Heart, Hopedale

Posted By April 27, 2017 | 12:44 pm | Featured Article #2
Michael Matondi passes on the shofar to Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish’s new Seder committee co-chairpersons: Jessica Allen, Julia Manning and Gina Russell. The parish had just celebrated its 35th annual Seder.
Michael Matondi passes on the shofar to Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish’s new Seder committee co-chairpersons: Jessica Allen, Julia Manning and Gina Russell. The parish had just celebrated its 35th annual Seder. TANYA CONNOR | CFP

By Tanya Connor
The Catholic Free Press
HOPEDALE – The shofar was passed on to a younger generation as Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish celebrated its 35th annual Seder on the eve of Palm Sunday.
“This is a bittersweet moment for me,” said Michael Matondi, the parishioner who has chaired this Jewish Passover celebration for many of those years. “Next year Gina will be in my space presiding. We finally have a woman presiding.”
Gina Russell said she has big shoes to fill. But, while she’s considered the new presider, she has two co-chairwomen to head the Seder committee with her: Julia Manning and Jessica Allen.
Mr. Matondi, 69, handed them the shofar to symbolize the transfer in leadership. (While this ram’s horn instrument isn’t traditionally part of Seders, Sacred Heart blows it, and Jews use it for other celebrations, he said.)
Mr. Matondi was given a card, a gift certificate and a standing ovation.
The new co-chairwomen aren’t completely new to the Seder; they’ve been on the committee.
Mrs. Manning said she and her husband, Robert, and their children were the family seated at the head table a few years ago.
“We really didn’t know what to expect, but we fell in love with it,” she said. In subsequent years, they brought more families, including the Heveys.
“We’ve attended three years now,” Shelia Hevey told The Catholic Free Press. “It kind of opens your eyes to the history of our religion, the traditions where it all began.”
seder _8734AfikomanThe Seder is part of the Jewish eight-day Passover celebration, explains the text Sacred Heart uses: “The Passover Celebration: A Haggadah for the Seder.” Published in 1980, the book was a collaboration between The Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith and The Liturgy Training Program of the Archdiocese of Chicago.
One event the Passover commemorates is the Jewish people’s deliverance from Egyptian bondage, which involved political and spiritual liberation, the book says.
“The Bible names the festival as Pesah (Passover) and Hag Hamatzot (the feast of unleavened bread),” it says. “Exodus 12:27 refers to the Hebrew homes protected by God who ‘passed over’ their houses at the moment of the Tenth Plague, the death of the first born. The saving event was later commemorated in the offering of the paschal lamb at the Temple.”
The Passover celebration in homes reenacts the Exodus experience and makes connections with present oppression and future hope.
Haggadah means “story” and Seder means the “order” of the ritual used to tell this story – through questions and answers, symbolic food and drink, songs and a game.
During Sacred Heart’s celebration April 8, Father William C. Konicki, the pastor and Seder leader, made connections between this Jewish celebration and Christianity.
The egg stands for sustenance for Israel, he said. In the Christian practice of dyeing Easter eggs, he said, the traditional color is red, to represent Jesus’ blood. Cracking open the egg reminds one of Christ’s tomb. The white and yellow represent joy and Jesus, the Pearl of Great Price.
Speaking of the Israelites in Egypt marking their doorposts with the blood of a lamb to save their first born, Father Konicki noted that at Mass Catholics pray to Jesus as the Lamb of God, who died for human beings’ sins.
The priest spoke of learning about their Old Testament roots and learning about how Jesus celebrated the Last Supper, traditionally considered a Seder.

Christopher Russell, 10, claps to the song “Dayenu.”

Christopher Russell, 10, claps to the song “Dayenu.”

Perhaps Joseph, one of Mrs. Russell’s 10-year-old twins, made the connections more clearly than he realized.
“This reminds me of Jesus’ body,” he said of the unleavened bread called matzot.
He’s relatively new to Sacred Heart’s Seders, which go back to a small gathering in the rectory in 1983, when Father Dennis J. Rocheford was associate pastor. Mr. Matondi said he got involved the next year, when a few dozen parishioners gathered Palm Sunday afternoon over Seder foods.
Eventually the celebration expanded to include a potluck, then the present catered dinner with the Seder ritual, held the night before Palm Sunday.
Even the children get involved, clapping to lively songs and playing a game with gusto. The game involves looking for the hidden Afikoman (a piece of Matzot).The finder is awarded a solid chocolate Seder plate made by parishioners Ralph and Jane Becker, Mr. Matondi said. The other children get good-sized bags of candy.
This year Elaine Kraimer, a Jewish woman who works in the local library, read the children a story about a parrot who stole the Afikoman.
Mr. Matondi said he’s been involved with the parish’s Seder for 34 years and this year they broke a record with 130 attendees.
He thanked the Goyettes, who sat at the head table, saying, “You represent one of God’s greatest gifts – the family.” He also thanked the other participants and “Rabbi Bill,” who he said guides them to shelter the homeless and visit the imprisoned.
“We love you Father Bill,” he said.
Father Konicki said Mr. Matondi is not just known for this celebration. He’s like a deacon, helping with wake, funeral and cemetery services too. He expressed hope that Mr. Matondi will be at the 36th Seder – and even the 70th.