Bishop DiMarzio Symbolically Washes Parishioners Feet

Tags: Currents Brooklyn, NY, Faith, Queens, NY

By Emily Drooby

One of the most important Catholic liturgies of the year is the Mass of the Lord’s Supper.

It was celebrated Thursday night by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint James. The liturgy commemorates both the institution of the Holy Eucharist and the beginning of the priesthood, which Jesus accomplished at the Last Supper.

Bishop DiMarzio explained, “He left us his presence in the Eucharist so that’s the greatest gift we have. Especially as Catholics, because we believe it’s the real presence, it’s not just the commemoration, it’s not just symbolic, it’s a real presence.”

Much of the Mass is similar to one you would see on a Sunday but there are some important additions. One is the washing of the feet of twelve members of the Brooklyn Diocese. Bishop DiMarzio following the example of Jesus, washing the feet of his twelve Apostles at the Last Supper.

The Bishop elaborated on its significance, “It’s important because it does show the humility of Christ and he showed us that we need to do the same thing and that’s why the celebrant of the Mass would be washing the feet of twelve people.”

The Cathedral Basilica’s Rector, Father Peter Purpura, helped choose the twelve this year. He picked people he thinks represent the community.

Father Purpura added, “We’re the only parish in Brooklyn that has Mass interpreted every Sunday so two of the twelve will be from the deaf community…There’s [also] a college student who has been very active here, from another state, who’s graduating in May.”

One of the twelve, Michael Gilbride is a victim-survivor of clergy sexual abuse.

After taking part in the ceremony he said, “Having my feet washed by the Bishop was very humbling, it means service to me, it means we are to do what the Lord did.”

At the conclusion of Mass there was a transition from celebrating to recalling the suffering and death of Jesus. During that time, the Blessed Sacrament is moved from the tabernacle to another location called the “Altar of Repose.” Parishioners continued the adoration well into the night, taking a moment to remember and reflect on Christ’s sacrifices.