Fr. Shaji Pazhukkathara washed the hands of a parishioner at the start of the annual Seder meal at Immaculate Conception Parish in Butternut. (Catholic Herald photo by Jenny Snarski)

Jenny Snarski
Catholic Herald Staff

On Wednesday, April 5, the parish of Immaculate Conception in Butternut hosted its annual Seder meal. The traditional gathering has been held at the church since 1999 when Missionaries of the Precious Blood Fr. Linus Evers initiated the practice with help from a group of parishioners.

The celebration, which coincides with the Jewish Passover, recounts the Book of Exodus story of the freeing of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.

Upon entering, attendees were met by a greeter who bowed his head, offered “Peace be with you” and anointed each guest on the forehead.
Dcn. Bob Schienbeck gave a warm welcome and reminded everyone that the Seder meal was not a Last Supper, but a way to experience some of what Jesus would have lived and experienced as a practicing Jew. He brought attention to the many elements of the Seder that carry over into the Catholic Mass and acknowledged the spiritual and liturgical roots of Catholicism in the Jewish religion.

Fr. Shaji Pazhukkathara stood up and added that, in the context of the current Eucharistic Revival, celebrating the Seder meal was a significant way to dive deeper into our roots and thanked those involved for providing the enriching experience.

Dcn. Schienbeck also shared some personal experiences from having visited the Holy Land. Some of his photos, along with artifacts and printed materials, were also on display.

As the participants moved through the meal and accompanying booklet, parishioners – including youth and Confirmation students – took turns reading.

Per the booklet used by Immaculate Conception Parish, after the Cups of Salvation and Elijah, readings included commentary on modifications to the feast and the emphasis placed on celebrating freedom of religion and the practice of faith.

“We now remember,” the deacon read, “those people of all faiths who were destroyed in Europe by diabolical forces that turned against all that is sacred to Jews, Christian, and all other people who hold human life sacred and a manifestation of God. We also remember those today who are being killed before birth in a slaughter even greater than Hitler’s massacre of the Jews.”

Two readers then shared passages relating from Anne Frank’s diary. Wondering how she hadn’t dropped all her ideals even as absurd as they seemed in the world and time she was living, the 15-year-old wrote on July 15, 1944, seven months before she died, “I still believe that people are really good at heart. I simply can’t build up my hopes on a foundation consisting of confusion, misery and death…

“I can feel the sufferings of millions and yet, if I look up to the heavens, I think that it will all come out right, that this cruelty too will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again.”