Franciscan celebrates vibrant Easter amid COVID-19 regulations

Theresa Balick

Franciscan University of Steubenville still held many of its Easter events and Triduum liturgies from Thursday to Sunday, April 1-4, opening its doors to students and families despite coronavirus regulations.

With overflow spaces prepared in the J.C. Williams Center, the Aerobics Room and Christ the King Chapel, the university prepared for its three biggest liturgies according to social distancing guidelines and capacity restrictions.

The festivities began Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in the Finnegan Fieldhouse with a Mass to celebrate the Last Supper. The Rev. Dave Pivonka, TOR, celebrated the liturgy.

While no procession followed the liturgy, adoration still occurred in the fieldhouse until 11 p.m. Adoration ended with night prayer sung by a group of men from music ministry.

To celebrate the Passion on Friday, the Way of the Cross took place in Christ the King Chapel at noon. Afterwards, students, families and faculty began to fill the fieldhouse around 2 p.m. for the Good Friday service.

Beginning at 3 p.m., the liturgy featured the chanting of the Passion narrative from the Gospel of John by the Good Friday Choir, a distanced veneration of the cross and the distribution of Holy Communion.

The Rev. Jonathan St. André, TOR, presided over the liturgy. His homily focused on the words of Isaiah in the first reading that said, “By his stripes we were healed.”

“The Lord, in allowing his heart to be pierced, heals our own heart,” St. André said.

Sophomore Lily Quiñones sang in the choir. She said that, while beautiful, the liturgy was also melancholic.

“It hit me that we were the ones who put him on the cross,” Quiñones said. “That made me appreciate his love so much more.”

To conclude the Triduum, students, families and faculty again filled the fieldhouse for the Easter Vigil liturgy. Although the liturgy did not begin until 8:30 p.m. and doors were not advertised to open until 7:30 p.m., students began lining up outside of the fieldhouse as early as 6:45 p.m. The doors opened 15 minutes early at 7:15 p.m.

The liturgy began outside of the fieldhouse with the Rev. Shawn Roberson, TOR, the celebrant of the liturgy, blessing and lighting the Easter candle.

The beginning of the liturgy consisted of the Exsultet, chanted by the Rev. Matthew Russick, TOR, all seven traditional readings, Psalms and prayers, the singing of the Gloria and the Alleluia, the chanting of the epistle and the reading of the Gospel.

In his homily, Roberson talked about how, despite the closed doors that the world experienced in the past year, God opens all doors to save mankind and spread light and love.

“He himself is the permanently open door that the Father sent for the world,” Roberson said. “We have no reason in that to be captive to despair.”

The liturgy also featured the baptism of infant Veronica Caeli Bobak as well as seven confirmations, two of which were students being received into the Catholic Church. The catechumens received thunderous applause at the conclusion of the rites that welcomed them into the church.

The annual Resurrection Party was canceled, but that did not stop students from celebrating in their own ways.

Sophomore Tanya McInnis had been going to Franciscan Triduum celebrations for years before she was a student. While disappointed that the Resurrection Party was canceled, McInnis said, “It was wonderful to finally experience all of the Triduum liturgies as a member of the student body.”

The celebrations concluded with a Mass on Sunday at 11 a.m. celebrated by the Rev. Jonathan McElhone, TOR.

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