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Holy Week Observed with Daily Events and Virtual Visit from Bestselling Author Fr. Jim Martin, S.J.

Kelly Slonaker

Holy Week was observed on the hilltop from March 28 through Easter Sunday on April 4, the last week of the Christian season of Lent. Students, faculty, and staff were offered daily events to observe the Catholic tradition, beginning with Palm Sunday, which included a virtual Mass. On Monday, palms were distributed throughout campus for community members to take as a symbol of victory, triumph, peace, and eternal life.

On Tuesday, the community was honored with a virtual talk by Jesuit priest and New York Times Bestselling Author Fr. James “Jim” Martin, S.J. Fr. Martin is the editor-at-large of America magazine and in 2017, was appointed as a consultant to the Vatican's Secretariat for Communications by Pope Francis. He is a frequent commentator on the life and teachings of Jesus and on Ignatian spirituality, as inspired by the life and teachings of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. He has authored 14 books, including The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life; Jesus: A Pilgrimage; My Life With the Saints; Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community Can Enter into a Relationship of Respect, Compassion, and Sensitivity; and Lourdes Diary: Seven Days at the Grotto of Massabieille. He is also the official chaplain of the Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

Over 100 students, faculty, and staff attended Fr. Martin’s talk, which centered on his ministry work with the LGBTQIA+ community in the Catholic Church. Fr. Martin offered his thoughts on how young people can do more to be welcoming, active members of the Church, work towards a more inclusive and equitable world, and continue to stay connected to their faith during trying times. Director of Campus Ministry Devon McCormick shared her appreciation for Fr. Martin: “Fr. Martin has been a staple of my bookshelf and a guiding voice as I have formed my ministerial career over the past several years. Every time I have met him or heard him speak, it has been transformative and inspirational. Being able to introduce him to so many students and to share that moment with my dear colleagues was an inspiring, uplifting, and encouraging experience, and one that I will never forget.” Devon expanded, “He has been influential to many of us in the Theology Department here at Canterbury. For us to be able to share his voice with our students in the midst of a difficult year was a real gift. We are so fortunate to have had him join us and hope that this was just the beginning of a new friendship!” Fr. Martin also shared his appreciation for the opportunity on Twitter in a tweet that read: “So happy to be with the administration, faculty and 100 students tonight at the Canterbury School in New Milford, CT, to talk about Jesus; faith; prayer; reaching out to our LGBTQ brothers, sisters and siblings; and a life of social justice. Thanks for inviting me!”

On Wednesday, Canterbury’s Interfaith Council hosted the final seminar of the Social Justice Series. The interactive panel, “Exploring Differences and Similarities: An Interfaith Panel,” included Canterbury’s Director of Campus Ministry Devon McCormick and her colleagues, Imam Gazi Aga and Rabbi Marcelo Kormis, who serve as Chaplains at Sacred Heart University and lead their own religious communities. Together, they discussed the similarities and relationships between Christianity, Islam, and Judaism and answered questions from students, faculty, and staff. 

On Holy Thursday evening, a Mass to celebrate and re-enact the Last Supper was held in the Chapel of Our Lady. Good Friday’s special schedule offered a chapel service at noon followed by an afternoon of technology-free, quiet reflection and service. The chapel service invited community members to write down their burdens and leave them at the foot of the cross and Director of Theater and Liturgical Music Sarah Armstrong sang a meditation. At the conclusion of the service, students were given the choice to continue their reflection in the chapel or participate in a variety of community service opportunities, including tying rosaries for Kennedy’s Rosary Project; decorating lunch bags and notes for Camella’s Cupboard; making Easter baskets for the children of faculty and staff members; making spring wreaths and sun-catchers for the residents of Village Crest Nursing Home; taking part in the Race Against Hunger 5K Walk to benefit the Connecticut Food Bank; baking sweets for the Loaves & Fishes homeless shelter; making bird, bee, and bat houses with the Sustainability Club; painting “kindness coins” for Ben’s Bells; working on a service project for the Women’s Center of Greater Danbury hosted by Women of Canterbury; mindful coloring and drawing; a visit to the Lourdes Shrine in Litchfield, CT; and hiking on the local trails at Steep Rock Preserve and around Lake Waramaug. Sunday’s Easter Mass and subsequent brunch concluded the celebration of Holy Week on the hilltop.