Common Thread


Orginally published in Dubois County Herald
By Candy Neal


"Talking about something IS one thing. experiencing it is another"

With food, drinks and prayers, 120 people shared their commonalties by partaking of a Passover Seder last week Thursday at the Jasper Country Club. "The Jewish faith is definitely in our Catholic roots, our Christian roots," said Carol Schuler; a lifelong member of St. Joseph parish in Jasper.

Schuler leaches religion to fifth-graders. They are learning about the Old Testament and are currently studying the Exodus story and symbolism in the Old Testament, including Passover.

She has never participated in an actual Seder, but she has talked about it with her students.

"Talking about something is one thing," she said as she enjoyed the Seder feast of fish, lamb, potato cake, asparagus and rice. "Experiencing it Is another"

St. Joseph Church sponsored last week's ceremony and brought in Dr. Richard Moss, whose religion is Judaism, to lead the ceremony.

The Seder Is the symbolic enactment of the Exodus, In which Moses led the Hebrew slaves to freedom.

"We're supposed to relive the experience -- the notion of freedom

and redemption - through prayers and acts," Moss said. "It's a very pivotal holiday In the Jewish faith."

Aspects of the Christian faith are embedded in Jewish traditions, said Phil Coil, director of religions education at St. Joseph Church.

"This is an ecumenical effort," he said. "We have a common heritage to share."

Seder means "order" in Hebrew. The order includes 15 steps in which participants go through acts to connect with the Exodus experience. "So that we may experience what our ancestors experienced," Moss explained to the crowd.

and are washed several times before handling matzah, flat breadthat is hard like a wafer Parsley is dipped into saltwater and eaten to mark the sprouting of greener. that comes with the spring. Ten drops of wine or grape juice are wasted to symbolize the 10 plagues. Children search for a piece of matzah. called the afikomen: the child who finds the afikomen gets a prize.

Many songs are sung: stones are told.

"You'll see the connection between the Jewish faith and ceremonies and the rituals of your faith," Moss said. Later in the ceremony he gave examples.

"We wash our hands before handling the matzah." he said. "Priests wash their hands before handling the communion wafer"

There is also a ceremony called a mikveh. in which people who convert to Judaism are immersed in water. "It's similar to a baptism." Moss said.

Coit came to appreciate the similarities when he was a child and his Christian family celebrated Passover

"That left such an impression on me." he said. "that I wanted to share that with others."

He did so last year through the Right of Christian Initiation of Adults program at St. Joseph's. Students. sponsors and teachers. a total of about 40 people, participated in that Seder ceremony with Moss.

Coit thought the ceremony could be expanded to include more people this year. Again, he went to Moss for help.

"We wanted to make this an authentic experience." Cott said. "as if you were in a Jewish home."

This was the third Seder St. Joseph's member Mary Agnes Gehlhausen attended. The first was at the church many years ago. The second one she attended was at Holy Family Church. where Father John Boeglin leads a Seder supper each year on Palm Sunday.

There were small variations between last weeks Seder and the Holy Family ceremony she attended last year. Gehlhausen said. For instance, she said. Holy Family participants dipped celery instead of parsley, in saltwater to eat.

"It's based on the same thing." Gehlhausen said "But It was different too." Both were equally en-lightening. she added.

Passover, an eight-day holiday usually comes before Easter, but that is not the case this year. It will start at sundown April 23. The Seder will be observed that day

Moss appreciates the fact that so many Christians are interested in celebrating the traditionally Jewish ceremony

"Historically. Christians and Jews have not had a great relationship." he said. "So this is a nice. encouraging sign of Christian people who have a real inter- est in Jewish tradition. It shows their genuine desire to learn about the roots of their own faith."


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