Bishop O'Connell washes the feet of a parishioner during the Mass of the Lord's Supper in Sacred Heart Church, Trenton. Hal Brown photos
Bishop O'Connell washes the feet of a parishioner during the Mass of the Lord's Supper in Sacred Heart Church, Trenton. Hal Brown photos

During the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, celebrated April 6 in Sacred Heart Church, Trenton, Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., spoke with conviction about the Mass as expressing the “unambiguous and non-negotiable core of our Catholic faith, intrinsically and integrally sown together as the one fabric of our Christian lives. One divine cloth that can never be torn or ripped apart because this is what the Church is and why the Church was established and what the Church does.”

PHOTO GALLERY: Holy Thursday in Sacred Heart Church, Trenton

PHOTO GALLERY: Holy Thursday in Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, Highlands

Holy Thursday celebrates the institution of the Eucharist as the true body and blood of Jesus Christ and the institution of the sacrament of the priesthood. In his homily, Bishop O’Connell recalled the “dramatic events that make this day in this week holy.”

“There was a gathering, a Passover meal and celebration complete with prayers and hymns. There was an example of humble service given from a ‘teacher’ that was instructive and unambiguous: ‘What I have done in washing your feet, you also must do for one another.’ There was a sharing of bread and wine, the anticipation of the end of one life and the beginning of a life that would ever end.

“My sisters and brothers, this night is holy, not because of the things we do here but, rather, because of the things he did – the Lord Jesus Christ,” said Bishop O’Connell. “It is he who gathers us. It is he who gives us himself as food and drink. It is he who drops to his knees to wash the feet of his disciples. He, the Lord Jesus Christ, makes this night holy. And what we do, we do in his memory. And he makes us holy.”

After the homily, Bishop O’Connell and Msgr. Dennis A. Apoldite, pastor, followed Jesus’ example and washed the feet of parishioners. While the Bishop washed the feet of 12 parish staff members and ministry leaders, Msgr. Apoldite invited all others in the congregation to have their feet washed.

Following the Mass, the ancient ceremony of the transfer of the Blessed Sacrament to the chapel of repose took place. Members of the congregation joined Bishop O’Connell and Msgr. Apoldite, who carried the Blessed Sacrament, in a procession around the inside perimeter of Sacred Heart Church.

Once the procession concluded, the Blessed Sacrament was taken to Holy Cross Church, Trenton, which is also part of Sacred Heart Parish, which served as the chapel of repose. Once in Holy Cross Church, parishioners as well as visitors were invited to pray in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament.

For parishioner Kathy Valentino, Holy Thursday Mass is poignant because it represents the humility of Jesus and is also a reminder for her “to set aside my pride and allow Jesus to help me as well as help others.”

“Holy Thursday is the culmination of the Eucharist, service to others and gathering together in faith as we approach Jesus's Crucifixion,” Valentino said.

She added that while observing the diversity of fellow parishioners having their feet washed – those of varying backgrounds, ages and some with disabilities – she sees “the faces of my family.

“I may not know their names or their whole story, but I know they go to my church,” she said. “They pray with me and for me even though they don’t know my name either. Yet, when we all come together for special things like Holy Thursday Mass, it just makes it that much more meaningful.”