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CURRENT ISSUE:  April 20, 2015   •   VOL. 53, NO. 8   •   Oakland, CA
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Beauty of religious life
recognized in ceremony

Capuchin Franciscan Brother Lance Houck was among the religious whose feet were washed by Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, on Holy Thursday.

rose carroll/special to the catholic voice

In a tradition of washing feet as old as Christianity and performed countless times around the world, Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, washed the feet of nine religious on Holy Thursday in the Cathedral of Christ the Light.

The Triduum, the holiest period of the Christian year, commemorates the three days from the Last Supper on Holy Thursday, to Christ's crucifixion and death on Good Friday, and his resurrection from the dead on Holy Saturday.
The foot-washing ceremony imitates Jesus' washing the feet of his apostles on Holy Thursday.

In his homily, Bishop Barber noted Pope Francis has made this a Year of Consecrated Life to honor men and women religious.
"The Mass draws us into performing works of service," the bishop said. "Christian acts of service are different than the Red Cross or Goodwill, ours are done in the name of Jesus."

To "honor the beauty of religious life," the bishop requested representatives of various religious orders and congregations in the diocese to have their feet washed.

One of those whose feet were washed was Rev. Emmanuel Camilleri, SDB.

"I was actually humbled by the bishop washing my feet," Father Camilleri said. "He thanked each and every one of us personally, and I saw that as very simple, beautiful."

Father Camilleri has spent much of his career in his home of Malta and in Rome. He is now on the teaching staff at the Institute of Salesian Studies and the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley.

"It was a surprise," he said. "I wanted to attend the functions at the cathedral, and I became another pair of feet." Father Camilleri said his feet were washed in a parish service as a youth, but never as a priest.

The cathedral, he added, "is beautiful. I am in love with that cathedral. It has all around it the idea of Jesus being the light of the world."

Sister Ann Marie Gelles, SHF, who is blind and teaches Braille at the California School for the Blind in Fremont, had never had her feet washed in a Holy Thursday service.

Having her feet washed was out of the ordinary, but she was happy to have been selected.

She and members of her order are "definitely concerned about vocations." The lay vocation is strong following Vatican II, she said, but religious vocations are a concern.

In his homily, Bishop Barber related the story of Blessed Charles de Foucauld, a French Army officer expelled for his debauchery. But Foucauld went to Confession, turned his life around and lived in North Africa, where he studied the Tuareg. He was martyred before he could achieve his goal of starting a religious community, but his legacy now lives on in several religious confraternities.

"You can learn a lot from Blessed Charles," the bishop said, "if you spend your time loving Christ and absorbing his love.

"When you divest yourself of ego, pride and 'I want my way,' then Christ has a place to fill you up," Bishop Barber said.

Sister Stella Marie Goodpasture, OP, a Dominican Sister of Mission San Jose who has worked as a teacher and in social justice in the diocese, said her feet were washed in a Holy Thursday ceremony for the first time last year when she was at St. Elizabeth Parish in Oakland.

"Our lives and ministries are changing," she said, concerning religious vocations. Sisters "are not in teaching ministry as we were before" but their "outreach continues from the mother house, with classes for lay people, our Sisters give retreats and we still have connections in our schools."

Capuchin Franciscan Brother Lance Houck said it "was a really special moment. I felt blessed and privileged" to be invited to the foot-washing.

Brother Lance, who made first vows last year, is part of a popular youth ministry by young Capuchin friars that uses music to evangelize youths. Brother Lance sings, plays guitar and writes songs for the group, Capuchin Brothers Music. "The idea of the ministry is that it wouldn't just be us," he said, "As people carry on with their ministries," others will step in.

"I just think it's a really awesome opportunity for young people to get closer to Christ," said Brother Lance, who's currently at the Capuchin formation house in Berkeley.

At The Vatican on Holy Thursday, in a moving ceremony that recalled how Jesus loved the world so deeply that he lowered himself to serve and died for everyone's sins, Pope Francis washed the feet of 12 prison inmates, plus a small toddler who lives with his incarcerated mother. "Jesus loved us, Jesus loves us, but without any limits, always, all the way to the end," he said during the Holy Thursday Mass of the Lord's Supper April 2.

— Catholic News Service contributed to this report.

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