By Ann Schneible
ROME, APRIL 8, 2012 (Zenit.org).- The call to evangelize, a call received by each and every Christian at his or her baptism, is founded upon the true event of Jesus Christ's rising from the dead.
Students of the Emmanuel School of Mission, a nine-month formation program for young men and women seeking to become missionaries in the world, are given the opportunity to reflect in a particular way on this call during the Easter Triduum as celebrated in Rome.
Eric Crowley from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, attended the ESM in Rome from 2010-2011. He spoke with ZENIT about his experience as a student of mission in Rome during Holy Week and Easter.
In the days leading up to Easter, the ESM students engage in various missionary activities in preparation for the Paschal Mystery, beginning with a retreat for pilgrims to Rome which extends through the Triduum and concludes on Easter Sunday. "People from all over the world came to [this] retreat," Crowley explained, "so we worked to help them to really have an experience of the Paschal Mystery throughout Holy Week. It was beautiful to be able not only to experience the Triduum in the heart of the Church, but to help others to experience it in a beautiful way."
Re-enacting Via Crucis
One of the highlights of Holy Week for ESM students is the live re-enactment of the Stations of the Cross, which they perform in St. Peter's Square on Good Friday. "None of us being trained actors," recalls Crowley, "we trusted that the Holy Spirit would come to our aid and allow us to present the Passion of Our Lord in a beautiful manner, in order to touch the hearts of those in the Square. Each one of us shared the same experience: the Holy Spirit completely led the entire presentation. Time seemed to stand still, and all thoughts of acting seemed to vanish. For that one hour period, we were those characters. It seemed as if we were present in the true Passion of Christ."
Crowley recalled how he and his fellow ESM students concluded on Easter Sunday by carrying the World Youth Day Cross, which is housed in the nearby Centro San Lorenzo International Centre for Youth, into St. Peter's Square to evangelize the people there. "We brought the WYD Cross out," he said, "and went out with the burning joy of the Risen Christ in our hearts to share that with people. I was surprised that many people who were in St. Peter's Square on Easter Sunday were not Christians, so it was a special experience to get to share this great feast with those of other beliefs. All of that emotion and grace from the entire Triduum spilled out during this beautiful occasion."
"After spending the year in Rome," Crowley concludes, "learning about the mission of the Church, Easter felt like the climax of our time. I kept thinking, 'This is what it's all about! Bringing people to this moment. Bringing them to experience the God who came so close to us, the God who entered in to our suffering, even our death. The God who rose and still lives today, in this very moment! This is the mission of the Church!'"