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Churches observe three solemn days before Easter
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For Christian churches all over the world, today begins the three days of solemn observances that revolve around the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus before his resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Several churches in the area have scheduled opportunities for the public to share in the solemn moments of prayers and contemplation today through Saturday. These include the traditional Triduum services – the three days of prayer before Easter – at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church on East North Street, a moving and dramatic Tenebrae service at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church on Powers Street when the lights and candles on the altar will be extinguished one by one and culminating in total darkness on Good Friday, plus contemplative walks at the church’s labyrinth garden, and services in Latin at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Ripon. Services for Holy Thursday and Good Friday are also being held at the Manteca Presbyterian Church at North Main corner North Street, and at United Lutheran Church at 649 Northgate Drive.

The Last Supper and the ritual of the washing of the feet on this Holy Thursday will be held this evening at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church, St. Paul’s United Methodist and United Lutheran starting at 7 o’clock. Maundy Thursday services at Presbyterian Church will begin at 6 o’clock. The bilingual liturgy at St. Anthony’s will be in English and Spanish. At St. Paul’s, the Maundy Thursday service will begin with a skit recounting the events of this holy day involving Jesus and his disciples which includes the ritual of foot or hand washing and sharing communion.

The Lord’s Supper service at St. Patrick’s Church on East Highway 120 will be in Latin and will begin at 6 p.m.

The following services will be held on Good Friday at the churches below:

• At St. Anthony of Padua in Manteca, the annual Living Stations of the Cross dramatized by the students of St. Anthony’s School will begin at noon followed by liturgy in English at 1 p.m. with the veneration of the cross and communion. A Spanish liturgy will be held at 7 in the evening.

• At St. Paul’s Methodist, Good Friday prayer services will be held from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. with the faithful signing up to pray for 30-minute intervals in the church sanctuary. At noon, Pastor Brandon Austin will lead a contemplative walk on the church’s labyrinth focusing on the “sad events of Jesus’ humble suffering and the fear of his disciples and friends.” Finally, in the evening at 7, the dramatic Tenebrae service will be held inside the church.

• Good Friday service at Presbyterian Church will begin at 7:30 p.m. in observance of the crucifixion of Christ; at United Lutheran, the service will start at 7 p.m.

• St. Patrick’s Church will offer sacred music at noon followed by the traditional Good Friday service at 2 p.m. A Divine Mercy novena will begin at 3 p.m.

On Holy Saturday, Pastor Brandon at St. Paul’s will facilitate another labyrinth walk starting at 7 p.m. and ending at the time when “the sun surrenders its light in the horizon.”

St. Anthony of Padua and St. Patrick’s Catholic church will both observe the traditional annual Easter Vigil service at 8 p.m. starting with the lighting of the New Five. The service at St. Anthony’s will be bilingual – English and Spanish.

For Catholics, Good Friday is a day of strict fasting and abstinence from meat for those 14 years and older.

On Holy Saturday, there will be no confessions which are regularly scheduled at 8:30 a.m. Also, there will be no 5 p.m. or 7 p.m. masses.