This Holy Week and Easter, hundreds of thousands of Catholics in the Diocese of Trenton will take part in Masses and services either inside or outside their churches while observing pandemic precautions or at home via livestream.  Beginning with Palm Sunday on March 28, the special events of Holy Week will commemorate the final days of Jesus Christ’s earthly life and celebrate on Easter Sunday, April 4, the joy of new life with his Resurrection.

In light of the ongoing risk of COVID-19 infection, the dispensation from the obligation of Mass attendance, issued last spring by Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., remains in place until further notice. Pandemic directives issued by the Diocese strongly urge all those who are ill, in high risk categories or concerned about attending in-church Masses to connect to Holy Week events through their parish’s livestreaming opportunities. 

The Diocese will livestream all of Bishop O’Connell’s Holy Week Masses and services via its digital and social media sites.  Further information follows:


PALM SUNDAY OF THE PASSION OF THE LORD • MARCH 28: Bishop O’Connell will celebrate the 10 a.m. Mass in St. Paul Church, Princeton.

Palm Sunday, or Passion Sunday, celebrates Jesus’ trium­phant entry into Jerusalem for the Jewish festival of Passover. As Jesus, who was riding on a donkey, entered the city, the enthusiastic crowds greeted him by throwing their cloaks down before him as a gesture reserved for royalty and also spread palm branches along the road while shouting “Ho­sanna,” a Hebrew expression meaning “save us.”

Until this time, Jesus, in his public ministry, did not al­low himself to be proclaimed as the Messiah. However, in this final entry into Jerusa­lem, he sets the stage for an entry that fulfills the Old Testa­ment’s foreshadowing of the coming of the Messiah.

As a memorial of Christ’s suffering, the day’s liturgy includes the reading of the Passion – the Gospel passages, which give the accounts of events of Christ’s suffering and Death. *Because of the pandemic, the directives issued by Bish­op O’Connell for Palm Sunday include that the Procession and Solemn Entrance at the start of Mass are to be omitted. Palms will be blessed – available after Mass as people exit Church.*


MASS OF CHRISM • MARCH 29: Bishop O’Connell and priests of the Diocese will gather for the annual Chrism Mass at 7:30 p.m. in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral, Freehold.

The Chrism Mass reflects the communion of the priests with their bishop. During this Mass, all of the priests of the Diocese who are gathered publicly renew their commitment to their priestly service. The Mass is also when the Bishop blesses the oils to be used in parishes throughout the coming year. The Bishop blesses the Oil of the Sick, which is used for the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, and the Oil of Cat­echumens, which is used for the Baptism of adult catechumens at the Easter Vigil. He also consecrates the Sacred Chrism, which is used for the Sacraments of Confirmation, Baptism and the ordination of priests and bishops and the consecration of churches. *The faithful are invited to watch the Mass this year via livestream only since, due to pandemic re­strictions, attendance will be limited to concelebrating priests who will renew their priestly commitments and collect their blessed and consecrated oils for their parishes.*


MISA CRISMAL – 29 DE MARZO:  El obispo O’Connell y sacerdotes de la Diócesis se unirán para la Misa Crismal anual a las 7:30 p.m. en la Co-Catedral San Roberto Belarmino, Freehold.

La Misa Crismal refleja la comunión de los sacerdotes con su obispo. Durante esta Misa, todos los sacerdotes de la Diócesis públicamente renuevan su compromiso al servicio sacerdotal. *Se invita a los fieles mirar la Misa este año a través de los medios digitales solamente porque la asistencia en vivo a la Misa está limitada, por precauciones de la pandemia, a los sacerdotes concelebrando que renovarán su compromiso sacerdotal y recogerán los oleos consagrados para sus parroquias.


HOLY THURSDAY • APRIL 1: Bishop O’Connell will celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at 7 p.m. in St. David the King Church, Princeton Junction.

The Mass of the Lord’s Supper commemorates when Jesus gathered with his disciples to celebrate the Passover. During this Last Supper, Jesus instituted the Eucharist and the priesthood. It is also at this Mass when the Gospel is read of how Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. By washing his disciples’ feet, he set for them and for all of his followers, the example of what it means to “love one another” and to be of service to others. At the end of the Mass, the Eucharist to be shared on Good Friday is not returned to the tabernacle. Instead, the Blessed Sacra­ment is carried in procession by the priest. This action symbolizes Jesus’ walk to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus agonized over the suffer­ing he was soon to endure. It is also at the end of the Mass when the altar is stripped. This ancient ritual is a powerful re-enactment of the Lord’s humiliation at the hands of the Roman soldiers. The bare altar symbolizes the transformation of the communion table of Holy Thursday into the tomb slab of Good Friday. *Pandemic directives state that the washing of the feet and the procession with the Holy Eucharist at the end of Mass be omitted this year. Instead, the Holy Eucharist is to be placed in a tabernacle or altar of repose for the adoration of the faithful after the reception of Holy Communion.*


GOOD FRIDAY • APRIL 2: Bishop O’Connell will preside over the Commemoration of the Lord’s Passion at noon in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton. (CLICK IMAGE TO GO TO LIVESTREAM)

Good Friday, a day of fasting for the Church, com­memorates Jesus’ Crucifixion and Death. In keeping with the Church’s ancient tradition that Sacraments are not to be celebrated on Good Friday, this is the only day during the year when Mass is not celebrat­ed. Instead, the celebration of the Lord’s Passion takes place within the context of a Communion service and is held at 3 p.m., which places the prayer close to the traditional hour of Jesus’ Death. The service includes a Liturgy of the Word, the Veneration of the Cross and reception of Holy Communion. The Passion is proclaimed again, but on this day, it is from John’s Gospel account, which is more person *Pandemic directives include that physical contact during the Veneration of the Cross is prohibited.*


HOLY SATURDAY • APRIL 3: Bishop O’Connell will celebrate the Easter Vigil at 8 p.m. in St. Dominic Church, Brick. (CLICK IMAGE TO GO TO LIVESTREAM)

Although celebrated on Holy Saturday evening, the Easter Vigil liturgy marks the beginning of Easter. The Vigil is arranged in four parts: a service of light, which includes the blessing of the fire and lighting of the Paschal Candle; the Liturgy of the Word, during which sev­en Readings from the Old Tes­tament may be proclaimed that tell the Salvation Histo­ry of God’s people; the liturgy of Baptism, when new members are welcomed into the Church through the Sacraments of Initiation, and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. *Because of the pandemic, the tradition of blessing of Easter food on Holy Saturday is highly discouraged indoors, but outdoor blessings may be arranged at the discretion of the pas­tor. Pandemic directives issued for the Easter Vigil include the omission of the preparation and lighting of the Easter Fire and distribution of candles to the congregation; the Blessing of Water should take place with a small amount of water bless­ed that can be disposed of reverently afterward; no water is to be placed in the fonts, and the Baptismal Liturgy should include the Renewal of Baptismal Promises unless there are Elect present for Baptism. Other adjustments provided in the diocesan pandemic directives will be made by the pastor of each parish.*


Most parishes in the Diocese of Trenton are now livestreaming Masses. To view their Holy Week and Easter livestreaming schedules, please visit your local parish website.

The Diocese of Trenton is composed of the parishes in Burlington, Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean Counties, serving the community of more than 700,000 Catholics.