Kirksville Mary Immaculate students learn and teach the meaning of “Maundy” Thursday


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Before freely accepting his passion and death, Jesus commanded his closest friends to love one another and to serve others with unvarnished humility.

He drove the point home in a way his Apostles found shocking — by wrapping a towel around his waist and insisting on washing their feet (John 13).

Julia Murmylo wanted her seventh- and eighth-graders at Mary Immaculate School in Kirksville to ponder that lesson and share it with the rest of the school.

Having attended Mary Immaculate School from age 5 through eighth grade, she pointed out that Holy Thursday has long been a part of the Holy Week experience there.

“When I was a student, Holy Thursday was celebrated by following the seventh- and eighth-grade kids around the school grounds as they acted out the Live Stations of the Cross,” she recalled.

Mrs. Murmylo is convinced that God was who led her back to her alma mater to teach.

“I got my first and only teaching job at Mary Immaculate, two weeks before school started back in 2014,” she noted.

As the new seventh- and eighth-grade teacher, she inherited the responsibility for organizing the Holy Thursday activities for the school.

“We continued to do Living Stations for many years,” she said.

But following the COVID-19 pandemic and related disruptions in 2020, Mrs. Murmylo and Principal Ann Gray set about breathing new life into the students’ Paschal observance.

“I wanted to something that was hands-on learning — something for the kids in the school of all ages could reflect on,” Mrs. Murmylo insisted.

She called to mind how many Christians refer to Holy Thursday as Maundy Thursday, which is the name of the ritual of washing people’s feet on that day in imitation of what Jesus did.

She recounted to her students how when she was a child attending the Mass of the Lord’s Supper with her family on Holy Thursday, the entire congregation would come forward for the Washing of the Feet portion of the Liturgy.

“Then, it became clear to me,” she said, “that I should host a feet-washing for the school and have the kids be hands-on — be like Jesus, being a servant to his disciples.”

She set about gathering information from various sources to give her students a feel for what Jesus was trying to convey to those who would  be charged with carrying his message to the ends of the earth.

She printed out five pages of information and skit lines for her students to read and silently reflect on.

She asked each to highlight what information struck them as being most important.

“I told them to think while reading: ‘What in here is best to explain to the younger kids about what Jesus wanted us to learn from his last days on Earth?’” she said.

“Being a part of a small school community, my students really strive to do what is best for all,” she noted.

The students then collaborated on putting together a lesson to share with their schoolmates about the meaning of “Maundy” and the significance of what Jesus did that day.

After sharing that lesson at an all-school assembly in the gymnasium, Ms. Murmylo’s students set about washing the feet of all the pre-kindergarten through eighth-grade students and the adults of the school.

“As a whole, this was a beautiful lesson for the students of all ages,” their teacher observed. “And it will surely be an experience to remember.”