Church celebrates Mardi Gras with festivity and fund-raising

February 24, 2004|by Alicia Notarianni

Mardi Gras - "Fat Tuesday" in French - is a tradition of feasting, masquerading and merrymaking the day before Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Christian season of Lent, the 40-day period of self-discipline and contrition before Easter.

St. Joseph Catholic Church had their last hurrah on Saturday, Feb. 21, (a few days before the actual Mardi Gras, which is today) with its second annual Mardi Gras Casino Night and Auction.

Mardi Gras is characterized by lights, jester beads and satin and feather masks and boas, all of which Carol McCardell, Mary Hellane and Jean Hough of the decorating committee used to festoon the Saint Joseph Community Center right down to the restrooms.


Parishioners and the general public began registering and gaming at 7 p.m. About 120 people attended, some of them in costume. Event committee chairman Greg Hannigan, a regal man dressed in a purple toga, said the group was very pleased with the turnout.

Father Chris Moore, pastor at St. Joseph who attended in Zorro attire, said proceeds from the event were about $10,000. The Exchange Club Parent-Child Center in Hagers-town will receive $2,500 to help provide child abuse prevention services to families. The remaining portion will be used toward St. Joseph's building fund, which finances the community center where the event was held.

"Council was looking for a major fund-raiser to pay down the mortgage," Moore said. A profitable gaming night tied in with the seasonal Mardi Gras celebration seemed like a perfect fit for the church.

Bob and Dolores Vidoni, former owners of the Venice Inn, prepared a cocktail buffet.

The Exchange Club of Hagerstown, a service organization dedicated to the improvement of communities, provided gaming for the event. Attendees tried their luck at blackjack, the big 6 wheel, beat the dealer, poker, bingo and a trivia game.

The auction began around 10 p.m., with Don Hockman of Hockman Auctions, LLC playfully working the crowd. Bidders were tempted with 39 items donated by local businesses. Big draws included a week in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Orioles tickets and Camden Club passes, gift certificates and a breakfast airplane flight for two.

Marguerite Lesky, co-chairwoman of auction items and program advertisements, attended the Mardi Gras dressed as a woman of intrigue in a wide-brimmed black hat. Lesky said the value of the auction items was more than $5,000. Successful bidders had the option to pay in U.S. currency or to pay half in gaming money and half in U.S. currency.

Moore said the parish built the community center during 1997 in response to rapid growth in the Hagerstown area. The building houses parish offices, a social hall and religious education classrooms. But with about 550 families currently attending St. Joseph and an average addition of one new family per week, the parish is already outgrowing its new space.

"The next big project will be an addition to the church," Moore said.

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