Remembering Holy Thursday

Remembering Holy Thursday

by Sr. Jo Anne Kelly MMM                 Ireland                         28.03.2024

It was early years after Vatican 11 and we were only learning about the liturgical changes for celebrating the Holy Week ceremonies. Our people in the leprosy village could not go out to the parish church but we were blessed to have our own ceremonies in the village church. I especially remember one Holy Thursday. The ceremony is a very beautiful celebration of thanksgiving recalling the last supper Jesus had with His disciples, when He first gave us the Eucharist and established the priesthood before He went out to face His passion and cruel death. To set an example for those who would follow Him Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and asked them to do it in memory of Him.

Our preparations included choir practices, preparing the church, the altar and finding twelve people who would have their feet washed. It was left to the village leader and his councilors to choose them. It was not an easy task. So many of the older permanent village people had bandages on their feet and others were reluctant as they thought nobody would want to wash their feet.

However, twelve of the elders were chosen and agreed, all of them men. They came early to the church to sit in their special place dressed in their best clothes. One was in a wheelchair, some were using crutches, and the rest came walking freely, but all of them with feet somehow damaged as a result of their illness. They were happy and enthusiastic at taking part.

We began the ceremony with a hymn for the feastday with drums and instruments and many voices. At the Gloria bells were rung as well and the church was filled with the sound of music. From then on however the tone changed and the drums and instruments were silent, only the human voices remained.
In the village we had people from 13 different tribal areas, each with their own language so the common language was pidgin English and we all spoke it. However, this year we had a new young priest who had not yet learnt pidgin so when it came to the homily the catechist offered to interpret for him. It was a simple, most beautiful homily about the great love that Jesus has for all of us and the example He gave of loving service, of washing the feet of his disciples. It was a lovely homily. The catechist knew his congregation, so the pidgin version was sometimes more powerful than the real English!

As the priest began the washing of the feet, he greeted each one. He took time and great care with the washing and drying. It was a very touching little ceremony. Tears came to my eyes.

The Mass continued after which the altar was stripped and we prepared to keep vigil with Jesus as He faced his passion and death.

Before the people left the church, I went to greet the men who had their feet washed. They were so excited and happy and thanking God for everything. They are such a gracious people.
One old man said to me “Sister, this our Jesus, He pass all” – meaning He’s the greatest.