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Holy Family church celebrates, recovers from vandalism

By ERICA RODRIGUEZ
May 2, 2010 at 12:02 a.m.

Sophomore Cameron Becker holds up a basket of cookies that sold for $210 during the auction at the Holy Family Church festival. All proceeds raised Sunday went to the church.

A LOT OF COOKING

Preparations for the Holy Family Church festival began Saturday afternoon, and cleanup was expected to last until about 7 p.m. Sunday.

"You don't come together and feed 2,500 people within a few minutes," said Otto Bleier, who oversaw the cooking.

Here's some of what was on the menu:

1,400 pounds of sausage

2,200 pounds of barbecue

250 pounds of beans

220 pounds of potatoes

600 pounds of onions

VANDALS UPDATE

Michael Ray Clark, 19, of Huffman, and Donald Hutcheson Jr., 19, of Humble, were each charged with one count of engaging in organized criminal activity and criminal mischief.

The two have a trial by jury scheduled for June 16.

Two 16-year-olds were also arrested in connection with the vandalism. Their cases are handled in juvenile court.

The cooking begins long before the event starts, and the beer continues flowing even after the food is gone.

On Sunday Holy Family Catholic Church held its 29th festival with hopes of raising more than $100,000 to support church activities and replace items following a January vandalism.

More than 2,000 people turned out for the event, which many described as family-like.

"It's really neat because they named the parish Holy Family, and it's like a family event," said Clyde Svetlik, a parishioner and baritone player in the Rusty Steins polka and waltz group that performed. "I don't think there's any other place like it in town."

The church, which was vandalized in January, has mostly healed from the incident, but parishioners can still recall feelings of shock.

"It really makes you think twice," said Judy Seiler, the church's youth director. "You think everything's protected."

Two men and two 16-year-olds were arrested in connection with the crimes. The two men face a trial by jury next month.

Church offices were ransacked Jan. 22, and $3,000 was stolen from a church safe. The Rev. Greg Korenek valued the damage at $23,000; it was mostly paid by insurance.

"People were just disheartened by it," Korenek said. "Everybody wonders why somebody would want to do something like that."

Seiler said she spoke with the parish's youth about forgiveness and also spoke with the parents of one of the offenders.

"We forgive them, but we still want to hold them responsible for what they did," she said. "Everybody makes mistakes, but you still need to be responsible for the choices they make."

Some parishioners believe the events made them stronger.

"You just don't think of those things happening at the church," said Bryan Ellis, event chairman. "You get a sense that everyone kind of rallied around that event to kind of get things back to normal and fix things as quickly as possible."

Sunday there were no signs of sadness about the vandalism or anything else as thousands of pounds of barbecue and sausage were served to the oom-pah tunes of the Rusty Steins band.

"It's a lot of camaraderie," said Otto Bleier, a parisher who has cooked at the event since it began. "To me that's what it's all about."

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