Students from GW Catholics Explain What Holy Week and Easter Means to Them

Climax of the Lenten season is a time for Christians to celebrate and recognize the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

March 25, 2024

GW Catholic members outside under cherry blossom tree

GW Catholics members Megan Clancy, Maggie Rhoads and Amanda Torres outside the Newman Center on Friday evening, preparing for a busy but uplifting Holy Week ahead. (Brenda Wilson/GW Today)

Holy Week and Easter are upon us as Christians cap the 40-day Lent season by commemorating the crucifixion and death of Jesus Christ before celebrating his resurrection on Easter Sunday. Three George Washington University students from GW Catholics, Megan Clancy, Amanda Torres and Maggie Rhoads, shared in their own words what this time of year means to them and their faith.

Megan Clancy
Philosophy major

For the last 40 days, Catholics have been in the season of Lent, a time set apart for fasting, penance and prayer. It is a time to pull back from the world, recognize where we are fallen, broken and in need of healing and turn to God as the source of that healing and salvific love. This all-powerful love that raises us up from our brokenness is poured out through the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ—and this is what we enter into during Holy Week, the final week and climax of the Lenten season. It began this past Sunday with Palm Sunday, the day we commemorate Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, where he will be condemned and put to death. Thursday begins the Triduum, the central festival of our faith, where we relive the passion (suffering), death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. On Holy Thursday, we celebrate the Mass of the Lord’s Supper—on this day, Christ shared the Passover meal with his disciples, and was arrested that night. On Good Friday, we celebrate the liturgy of the Lord’s Passion. This is the day Christ was condemned, beaten and crucified. Jesus, who is God, allowed himself to be taken over by death on Good Friday. We leave the liturgy in silence and expectancy, which holds through Holy Saturday. After sundown on Saturday, the Easter Vigil begins. We gather to celebrate the crowning glory of our faith: the resurrection of Christ! Jesus has triumphed over sin and death, and thus has freed us from their bondage. With Easter, we rejoice! For love has triumphed over hate, life has conquered death. In this world that is so broken and full of sorrow, the reality of Easter brings us the undying hope that suffering, evil, death will not have the last word. That death has no victory over us! Easter changes everything—it is the cause of all our joy, all our hope.

Maggie Rhoads
Journalism major

Celebrating this Easter as a college student is extra special to me because I am becoming an official member of the Catholic Church. Since late August, I have taken weekly Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) classes through the GW Newman Center to prepare myself for communion and confirmation. Unlike Megan and Amanda, I did not grow up in a Catholic household but was baptized a Christian when I was baby. I decided to become a practicing Catholic during my sophomore year of high school as a way to cope with the general stress school offered. I attended a Catholic high school in the suburbs of Chicago where they offered daily mass at 7:10 a.m., but I often arrived earlier to just sit and be. Having a sense of there being someone out there who already knew my future was and is comforting to me. In the stress of life, I already know it will work out and if it does not it will for the better. God teaches there is a reason for everything and to trust in his plan. Since I have been in discernment for around three years, I am excited to finally become a member of the Catholic Church, and this Easter is special to me for that very reason. Also, my family from Chicago is flying in to join me for my initiation, which is just another reason to be excited. Even if you have never celebrated Easter, we at the GW Newman Center encourage you to get involved. We look forward to seeing you there!

Amanda Torres
Philosophy major concentrating in public affairs

Growing up in a devout Mexican Catholic household, Easter is a day spent gathering with loved ones to attend Mass, savoring the flavors of a carne asada cookout and engaging in a competitive easter egg hunt. Now, as a junior in college, having embraced and deepened my faith journey, the meaning of Easter has evolved into something profoundly personal. In a world marked by confusion and brokenness, the season of Easter serves as a beacon of hope and reconciliation. Easter, the day of Jesus' triumph over sin and death, reminds me that despite the battles of life, the ultimate victory has already been secured. It reassures me that love will always prevail, offering me strength in times of uncertainty. As a young Catholic, Easter nudges me to reevaluate my priorities in a world often consumed by materialism, self-indulgence and egoism. Through Christ's sacrifice on the cross, I find redemption and reaffirmation of my identity as his beloved child. It's a time when I'm reminded of my imperfections, yet reassured that perfection is not a prerequisite for his love and grace.

Throughout my life, I've grappled with the inevitability of death, witnessing the loss of loved ones. At times, this reality appears daunting, casting fear and uncertainty over the fabric of life. Amidst the brokenness and pain, it is through Christ, that I find glimpses of love that transcend the darkness, illuminating the beauty and preciousness of every moment that this life has to offer. Each sunrise is a symphony of hope, each interaction a testament to love's power, and each setback an opportunity for resilience and growth. Life is beautiful and it’s worth loving, protecting and living. Through Jesus, I aim to be transformed daily and live it fully.

The GW Newman Center is holding Holy Week programming throughout the week. Follow the link for more details.