Easter Triduum in Tanzania: Holy Thursday & Good Friday

Fr. Jim Donohue.

We divided our responsibilities for the Triduum. I led the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord’s Supper and Fr. Yohana led the Way of the Cross and the Good Friday Service. Fr. Maciej and Br. Michael were teamed together for the Easter Vigil on Saturday evening at the main church in Biatika—which included the baptism of about 50 adults and children—while Fr. Yohana and I were teamed together for the Easter Vigil on Saturday evening at the Magunga outstation—which included the baptism of another 50 adults and children.

Things started off on Holy Thursday with an altar server meeting, followed by a showing of the movie Risen. It is in English with subtitles, so most of the youngsters could follow well enough. Of course, the battle scenes between the Romans and the Jewish rebels drew the most attention! There does seem to be something incongruous about watching Jesus being crucified while eating a lollipop, but they are kids, right? It is a good movie and they enjoyed it.

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Fr. Maciej proclaimed the Gospel and preached at the Holy Thursday Mass. After the homily, I washed the feet of twelve men from the parish.

After washing their feet, I would bend lower to kiss the washed feet. I remember learning this from Fr. Michael Mas, C.R. when he served as my Assistant Novice Director and inaugural Pastor at Resurrection Catholic Parish in Woodstock, IL in 1978!

One of the challenges for me at this liturgy was to lead Eucharistic Prayer I. Most priests do not choose this text because it is the longest and most complicated of the Eucharistic Prayers. However, it is the preferred choice for this night. I practiced and practiced, but I must admit that I made quite a few mistakes.

After Mass, Fr. Maciej explained to people that this was a difficult prayer, even for people who pray it in their own language. He told everyone that he was very proud that I took on this challenge and did so well. Everyone clapped and after Mass, people thanked me for my continued efforts in Swahili.

Wow, these people are generous and gracious to a fault. It was great encouragement, however, because there was much more new Swahili to use over the next few days.

After Mass, all the people who served at this Mass gathered for a photo.

This was a chance for me to ask them about the movie. What did you like best? Some answers: “When the huge rock crushed the Roman soldier.” “When the rebel was run through with the sword.” “When they surrounded Barabbas and captured him.” Okay…what about any other kinds of things? “The face of the Tribune when he first saw the Risen Jesus.” “When Mary Magdalene told the disciples what to do.” “When they did not recognize Jesus but followed his advice to cast their nets on the other side, catching so many fish that the boat almost sank.” “That everyone seemed guilty but also so happy to see the Risen Jesus.” “That Peter seemed confused about what to do all the time.”

In the past, for my class called “Encountering Christ,” I used this movie for students to watch and then write a reflection paper. My undergraduate students had many of the same comments about “the other kinds of things!” All in all, I think it was a good movie to use for the young people.

Good Friday began with the Way of the Cross. Earlier in the day, Br. Michael had set out stations in the area surrounding the church for us to walk as we prayed the Stations of the Cross. We prepared and gathered at the church.

There were about 200 people who walked the stations…we picked up more people along the way!

Different groups—the choir, the men’s group, the women’s group, the youth—took turns carrying the cross. We also had a portable battery-operated speaker so that everyone could hear.

It was a very hot day…but it could be worse; we could have had rain! After the Way of the Cross finished, we gathered in the church for the Good Friday service.

Sometimes I forget that Fr. Yohana has not been a priest for even one year yet. He is very talented and has a good deal of confidence in what he is doing. He did a great job leading this Good Friday service.

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After the priests, the catechists venerated the cross. I found it interesting that next went the men, then the women, and then the children. Of course, the women always outnumber the men at church, but here one must take account of all the children…it is amazing how many children you see everywhere.

Here is a presider who is keeping track of everything going on during the service!

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The final part of the service is to take the Blessed Sacrament to a chapel for a short period of adoration. Our Triduum will continue tomorrow.

More to come on www.resurrectionists.ca

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