Christian Students Recognize Holy Week on Campus
by Nicole Gorny | Syracuse UniversityImage courtesy of Flickr, bowsk
Bellarmine Chapel on the Xavier University campus was filled beyond capacity this past Sunday, after students and parishioners alike processed from the green space on campus to the chapel for Palm Sunday services. Only standing room remained for the palm-carrying congregation.
At the John G. Alibrandi Jr. Catholic Center at Syracuse University, church-goers filled an additional 50 chairs in a space that is normally set up to accommodate 50 to 75 people.
Sunday marked the beginning of Holy Week in the Catholic faith. The week – which also includes the commemoration of the Last Supper on Holy Thursday, the crucifixion of Jesus on Good Friday and the final day of Lent on Holy Saturday – falls on the week prior to Easter, which is considered the holiest day on the Church calendar.
As evidenced at Xavier and Syracuse, students at colleges across the country acknowledge Holy Week. While some schools give students several days without classes so they can celebrate with family, almost all offer religious services and events for Catholic students.
At Xavier University, a Jesuit school, students kicked off Holy Week together with Palm Sunday Mass, senior Timothy McGrath mentioned. Although Bellarmine Chapel, which is also a parish for the community, normally has three parish Masses and two student Masses each Sunday, only one 4 p.m. Mass is held on Palm Sunday.
“It’s a bigger celebration and a combination of those two mass communities,” McGrath said. “It’s something we like to do to bring the groups of students together.”
McGrath, a member of the 10 p.m. Mass planning committee, said daily Mass attendance increases significantly during Holy Week, as well. Because students do not have classes on Thursday, Friday or the Monday following Easter, no specific student services are held over these days and the weekend, but students are invited to attend services with parishioners.
Conversely, special liturgies – especially between Thursday and Sunday – mark the University of Notre Dame’s recognition of Holy Week, sophomore Caroline Ramsey said. These include a Holy Thursday service with a ceremonial washing of the feet, a Good Friday Stations of the Cross service and Easter liturgies in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on campus.
As a member of the Folk Choir, a liturgical group on campus, Ramsey said she would sing at Easter Masses on campus rather than return home for a long weekend between Friday and Monday. Her family will come to Notre Dame and attend Easter Mass with her instead, which is not entirely uncommon within the student body.
“It’s nice to see how many people come, and the common unity to be found in celebration and the liturgy,” she said.
However, for Kylie Stuckey, a freshman at Belmont University, going home is worth a long drive even if she has classes again on Monday. At the Christian school, students are given Thursday and Friday off to allow them to celebrate with family.
“I think it’s nice that Belmont recognizes [Easter],” Stuckey noted, “It’s an important day.”
Even at secular colleges, Holy Week is recognized. Father Linus DeSantis, chaplain for Syracuse University and nearby State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry, said both Catholic and inter-faith Christian services are held throughout the week, including campus-wide Stations of the Cross with a social justice theme on Friday. This inter-faith service begins at Hendricks Chapel, a non-denominational worship space in the center of campus, and stops at various academic buildings to commemorate Jesus’ path to crucifixion. DeSantis said student participation in Stations of the Cross each year is consistent, regardless of Syracuse’s unpredictable weather.
The Easter Vigil Mass on Saturday is also inter-denominational, DeSantis noted, with Catholics receiving the Eucharist on the right side of Hendricks Chapel while all other Christian groups congregate on the left.
In spite of these services, Holy Week bears less emphasis on secular campuses in general. Kayla Caldwell, a senior at Syracuse University, said she was unaware of any organized services to recognize Holy Week or Easter on campus, and even had to attend a video-training session for a class on Good Friday.
Caldwell said she plans to attend Easter Mass with two other Catholic friends and have a special dinner afterward.
“Since we can’t go home, we’re going to celebrate after Mass,” she said. “I have to do something – even if it’s little – to celebrate.”Nicole Gorny is a NGJ College Reporter and a freshman newspaper and online journalism and Spanish double major at Syracuse University. She also spends much of her time working on campus publications, including the Daily Orange and 360 Degrees.