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Churches to begin joyous celebration of Easter tonight
ROSE ALBANO RISSO/Bulletin correspondent Father Chad Wahl, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church, carries the wooden cross during the Solemn Liturgy of the Passion of the Lord on Good Friday.

The traditional Easter Vigil service at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Manteca will begin at 8:30 p.m. tonight with the blessing of the new fire followed by the lighting of the Paschal candle. The bilingual service — in English and Spanish — will be highlighted by the baptism and confirmation of the new members of the Catholic faith.

The Great Vigil of Easter is the first official celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus. This celebratory religious occasion is the triumphant follow-up to Good Friday, the solemn observance of the crucifixion and death of Jesus on the cross. At St. Anthony’s, parishioners filled the church for the three-hour Solemn Liturgy of the Passion of the Lord which started at noon. It started with the reading of scriptures, followed by the Adoration of the Cross when the faithful came forward to kiss the cross after the death of Jesus, and finally by a Communion service. The Liturgy of the Passion of the Lord was repeated in the evening in Spanish.

At St. Paul’s United Methodist Church, daylong Holy Friday services were held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. It was followed in the evening by the Song of the Shadows Cantata.

There will be no confessions at St. Anthony’s on Saturday, which usually take place in the morning.

On Easter Sunday, the church will return to its usual Sunday Mass schedule — 7, 8:45 and 10:45 in the morning, and 12:30 in Spanish. However, there will be no 6 p.m. service.

Other churches in the area are also celebrating Easter Sunday with sunrise services. The joyful observance will be marked by St. Paul’s United Methodist with Easter celebration worship service at 10 a.m. followed by fellowship time at 11 a.m. The day will conclude with an Easter egg hunt on the church grounds.