Story and photos by Beth Donze, Clarion Herald
In the late 1950s, when Carol Pond was a student at the former St. Joseph High (the school affiliated with St. Joseph Church on Tulane Avenue), her Daughters of Charity teachers would focus on something different every day of Holy Week in religion class.
On Monday and Tuesday, Pond and her classmates would revisit the events of Palm Sunday (celebrated the previous weekend) and studied the Gospels detailing Jesus’ journey to the temple, his cleansing of the temple and his preaching about the coming judgment.
The Sisters would refer to the Wednesday of Holy Week as “Spy Wednesday,” Pond said.
“We would read about Judas making that decision to betray his best friend and hand him over. How did Jesus feel being betrayed by one of his chosen – his inner circle?” recalled Pond, who has continued her alma mater’s microscopic approach to Holy Week in her own religion classroom at St. Christopher Elementary School in Metairie, where she is director of religious education and a faculty member since 1978.
On Holy Thursday, Pond and her peers would help the Sisters prepare the church for the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. That nighttime liturgy would be followed by silent prayer before the reposed Blessed Sacrament – into the wee hours of Good Friday. Pond even remembers seeing parents leaving church to put their children to bed and then swapping babysitting duties to be able to be in church.
“We came together as family – and not just biological family, but church community family,” Pond said.
On Good Friday, Pond reported to school for a morning of reflection and went to church to hear the reading of the Passion before being dismissed to go home.
“When you got to the Easter Vigil Mass, it was like bringing everything you had gone over during the week into the culmination of the resurrection,” Pond said.
”Sometimes, we just look at Palm Sunday and then we rush to Holy Thursday,” she added. “So I try to get (my own students) to understand: Jesus had this triumphant entry, and then he had to go and clean his Father’s house because they had made it a den of thieves – and then we do reflect on what is Judas going to do? Why is he going to do it? I kind of throw them into Judas’ place and (ask them), ‘What would you have done? How would you have reacted?’”
Among the positive changes made after Vatican II, Pond believes, is the movement toward more children re-enacting the Way of the Cross. At St. Christopher, fourth graders have that privilege, while seventh graders serve as narrators. Re-enacting Jesus’ journey to Calvary engages an audience in the story far better than simply standing and kneeling as the Way of the Cross is read.
“They can concentrate on those words of what (Jesus) did and (then say), ‘What am I doing? How am I part of his story?’” Pond said.