By Merita McCormack*/ Washington DC/
On Sunday December 22nd, the last Sunday of Advent, The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was offered for the Victims of Earthquake in Albania. It was held at the Sacred Heart of Mary Catholic Chapel at MaryMount University in Arlington Virginia. We are grateful to both Fr. Joe Rampino, its Chaplain and the Office of Multicultural Ministries, especially its Director, Miss. Bridget Wilson for facilitating the venue and for their love.
It was a large participation. Besides the Arlington Diocese Albanian Community, there were Albanians and Americans from our large community in Washington DC Metro Area. Top Albanian Diplomats in USA, both Ambassador of Albania H.E Floreta Luli Faber and her colleague, HE Vlora Citaku, Ambassador of Republic of Kosova in USA, attended the Mass. We are very thankful and grateful to both of them. Joining the Mass was also Mrs. Alice Buttler Short, the founder and President of “Virginia Women for Trump”.
Mrs. Buttler-Short is a friend of Albanians and our community is very grateful to her who came to pray to God for our nation. There were many American friends of the musicians but also a good mix of ourselves too. There were Albanians from Albania and also Albanians from Kosova, most notable among them Mr. Shaqir Salihu and Mr. Arsim Cejku. Heads of other ethnic communities in the Diocese of Arlington were also present. In particular in style and number were those of the Slovak Community. This Mass was celebrated by Reverent Scott Sina, a priest of the Diocese of Arlington and a friend of Albanians. Ehsen Zajmi a very talented Violinist, who has played professionally for a decade in Albania and now in USA, Laura Boci a very talented High School student and violinist and Sabrina McCormack, the Mass Music Chair at her work, were our Mass musicians, whose talent was so beautifully used to accompany our prayers to Almighty God. Denis Guma was a lector and also his family were gift bearers. The McCormack young men, K. John and E. Arber served at the altar.
Fr. Sina, the presider, during his Homily, spoke fondly and lovingly of the situation in Albania but he also tied it to the many difficulties that people have suffered through out the centuries and that there is always Hope. He spoke so eloquently about the difficulties that Joseph, the husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus faced at the time of Mary’s pregnancy. Yet nothing is impossible with God so as we trust God and prepare our heart, we offer our difficulties and trials to our Lord, who out of Love for us became man, came to Earth, lived among people, was crucified, died and rose again so we all may have life in eternity. We celebrate the birth event soon, at Christmas.
After Mass there was the Chamber Music Concert performed by four talented classically trained Albanian American musicians. That concert was offered in honor of the Earthquake Victims as well and served also as a fundraiser. An Initiative called “Women to Women and Children”, was born out of desire of many Albanian Women in our area to help Albanians facing the earthquake related difficulties. The five women that spearheaded the effort are Valbona Qerimi, Keida Kostreci. Mirela McDonald, Genta Arvoas and Evi Struble.
There is also an additional group of women, who work with these wonderful ladies and help with the efforts to fundraise and support. Thus, a significant of money has been raised to date, to serve this purpose. The four generous classically trained musicians that provided a pro bono beautiful chamber music concert are: Merzan Kostreci (piano) Frederik Spiro (viola), Enklejda Luzi Spiro (violin) and Kela Veshi (violin)
The Concert was an event of its own and started with Evi Struble, who was dressed in Albanian ethnic costume opening it and introducing the musicians and the program. She spoke of the initiative and welcomed Madam Ambassador of Albania in Washington DC to speak. Mrs. Floreta Luli Faber thanked the participants for being there and also expressed gratitude for all the efforts. She also spoke of the Albanian Government effort to alleviate the Earthquake caused pain. She spoke of the Albanian Embassy many efforts to raise awareness, to seek support and direct help as needed. The Artists performed a variety of music, from Limoz Dizdari to Moxart’s Quartet. At a certain point in the Program, Genta Arovas, made calls for donations and people responded generously. The organizers had taken care of details, the way they did the program, the way the presented, performed, explaining the cause and receiving the much-needed donations. After the Encore, Keida Kostreci, invited the people to stay tuned as such similar events are still coming and also to gather for a group photo. People socialized a little more and then everyone headed home wishing each other Happy Holidays. Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah since the congregants were of all faiths, including Albanian American Jewish.
That concert was heavenly and there was a transcendent beauty that one cannot see but feels. Many commented afterwards and a lot of poetic messages were exchanged. I was struck by how Evi Struble spoke of the music and musicians. She spoke of the international language that they speak through music and how beautiful that is. We all want to be you-she said to the musicians.
I totally concur with my friend, and yes, of course, in the presence of God, reverent performers and reverend spectators, it could not be different. Indeed, it was a unique event that will be remembered for years to come. A last detail to illustrate, it was so beautiful that at the end the encore performance, the “Lulebore” Albanian song lyrics, were sung by the congregation, thus accompanying the instrumentalists. Sorry if we got off key! But I bet, at that moment, there was not a single eye dry or any pair of lips unmoved. And one can’t help but think, how poignant that an Albanian song praising love as it ought, was closing the unforgettable evening at a place where the Love of God is constantly revealed. God has His beautiful way of drawing people to his heart! Merry Christmas to Christians, Happy Chanukah to our Jewish Friends and Happy New Year to all!
*The Author is VATRA Member and Co-Founder of Albanian Catholic Community in the Diocese of Arlington. She works in Washington DC Metro area and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org