AHC Havurah Newsletter
Vol 3, March 2013
Ken and Flora Wilsker
Shalom Havurim (friends),
As we write this Havurah Newsletter, we are in the midst of Lent and making our preparations for Pesach (Passover) and for the Passion of our Lord and Messiah. We realize that you may be already planning or would like to plan some kind of celebration of Passover in your havurot and homes. We want to be able to assist you in your preparations, especially if this is your first attempt.
Generally speaking, the Passover Seder is celebrated on the first and often times on the second night. The Seder is the traditional liturgical meal of all Jewish families that tells the story of the Exodus from Egypt. Exodus 12:14 says that “…you are to keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations you shall observe it as an ordinance for ever.” The Seder usually takes place in the context of the family, so they are celebrated in the homes and not in the synagogue. Our havurot function much like an extended family, so it would be appropriate to celebrate a Seder with your havurah.
The date for Pesach this year is the erev (evening) of Monday, March 25, so technically the first Seder would happen on that night. Logistically, the timing of this might be somewhat inconvenient as Catholics, since we are also at the start of Holy Week. Some of us are also planning to attend traditional Seders with the part of our Jewish families who are not Catholic yet. So, it would be appropriate to set up a time that is convenient sometime before Holy Week to prepare the Seder and celebrate with your havurah.
For the past couple of years at the Miriam Mystical Rose Havurah in Indianapolis, IN USA, we celebrated the Seder with our havurah in the home of one of our members, and this made the celebration very much like any family Seder. We used the Haggadah (the name for the liturgy of the Seder) that was put together by the Association of Hebrew Catholics. You can find the AHC Passover Haggadah in pdf format at:
We had about 15 or so people, and we had 2 large tables. We had a Seder plate on each table with matzah and Kosher wine (grape juice would be good for the children). You can choose a leader for the Seder, but everyone has a copy of the Haggadah so all can participate. The Haggadah is arranged in paragraphs that lend themselves very easily to have each participant read a small section as the Seder progresses. This is a great way for everyone to have a part in the celebration.
Since last Passover we have moved to Louisville, KY and do not yet have a new havurah to celebrate Pesach. We have to tell you that something very miraculous has happened. Several months ago we settled into our new parish, and we met with our new Pastor. We were blessed to find out how much he had been studying the Jewish roots of our faith. He was as excited as we were when he discovered our background and wanted us to get the parish involved. He thought it would be good for us to do a Seder for the parish, and he was also open to starting a havurah to develop after the Seder. Of course, we were very excited and grateful that the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) would open up such an opportunity.
We know some of you receiving this Newsletter have circumstances where you are not quite sure how to grow the havurah in your parish and cities. We would like to encourage you to set up a meeting with your Pastor and show him all the materials from the AHC. You could bring a Haggadah and the brochure from the AHC entitled Havurah, as well as the latest issue of The Hebrew Catholic. Your Pastor will appreciate your homework, and seeing that the AHC and Hebrew Catholics are faithful to the Magisterium of the Church will hopefully make him feel at ease. Of course, go “prayed up” and ask all of us for prayers too.
We have the date and time of our first Seder here in Louisville, KY all set, and we will be using the AHC Passover Haggadah. Our Pastor has graciously allowed us to put an invitation to attend the Seder in the weekly parish bulletin. We decided to do the Seder without the meal this time to make it easier to organize and less costly. We do plan to have all of the Seder elements, with light refreshments instead of a meal. This could be a good alternative for some of your Seders as well. We are going to keep the number to about 30 people so all can participate in the Seder.
Lord willing, from this Seder we hope to be able to generate enough interest to begin a havurah here in Louisville. We heard from some of you previous to this Newsletter that you were unable to organize a Seder, so we want to encourage you to at least organize a “supperless” Seder and use the AHC Passover Haggadah. You will be amazed how the Lord will bless you, your havurah, and your families as you discover and celebrate the Jewish roots of the Holy Mass and our Catholic faith.
For an excellent explanation of the Seder by Roy Schoeman, go to Roy’s web site at:
Also visit Marty Barrack’s new website at:
If you are more of a book person, then Marty’s book Second Exodus, pages 179-183, is a good reference as well.
For some authentic Jewish Passover recipes you can visit:
or just Google and find your favorite site. Since Flora is Italian we were fascinated with this site:
Some of you might also run up against those in your parish who would try to tell you that celebrating the Seder is “under the Law” and is not appropriate for any Catholic to celebrate. If that should happen (and we pray not), here is the excerpt from the 2010 interview with Cardinal Raymond Burke which should answer all the objections:
You Shall Be My Witnesses…Hebrew Catholics and the Mission of the Church
An Interview with Archbishop Raymond L. Burke, see pgs. 36-37
3. David: The third question concerns the legitimacy of celebrating various traditions of our Jewish heritage, in the light of Christ, within the Church. The Church and the sacramental economy can be understood in part as fulfilling the Torah’s prescriptions, enabling the deepest, most profound understanding and observance of all the commandments that God intended for his People Israel, and made possible through His Son.
There are Hebrew Catholics who wish to preserve their identity and heritage through the prayers, celebrations, and discipline of life that is in continuity with their lives as Jews before they discovered the Messiah and entered His Church. Their prayers, celebrations, and practices would all take place in the light of Christ and in accord with the teaching and discipline of the Magisterium. Fr. Friedman believed that Hebrew Catholics, with the support of the Church, could make an important contribution to the new evangelization through their collective witness to (1) God’s revelation and mercy throughout the Old Testament, and (2) to the continuity and fulfillment of that which was hidden in the Old Testament and revealed in the New Testament.
However, there are those who argue that any Catholic who participates, for example, in a Passover Seder commits a mortal sin. They believe that the Seder was a rite of the Old Covenant, which they hold is now superceded by the New Covenant.
The AHC would argue that Hebrew Catholics are not celebrating the Seder as a rite of the Old Covenant. Like everything else in the Old Testament, the Seder, which is the historical practice of most Jews, is now part of the heritage of every Catholic. The Seder celebrated in the light of Christ could be considered a New Testament devotion. It can offer us another opportunity to praise God for His mighty deeds and enable us to more concretely experience and understand the drama of salvation history as it is ultimately fulfilled in the Mass.
[Question] What would the Church say today about Hebrew Catholics observing their traditions in the light of Christ?
Archbishop Burke: I think the key is, as you’ve said repeatedly in your introduction to the question, that these celebrations are all carried out in the light of Christ, in other words, fully informed by the Christian faith, but not losing that preparation for Christ which was in the Seder meal and in other prayers and rituals of the Jewish people. So, as long as those prayers–let’s take, for instance, the Passover Seder—are celebrated with full Christian faith in which they take on their fullest meaning, this, I think, is a wonderful devotion, and I would think a particular devotion for Hebrew Catholics, but also for non-Hebrew Catholics who would understand fully the meaning of these celebrations.
I remember that when I took part in the celebration, it was a very careful presentation, a narrative that accompanied the celebration, to make very clear that the celebration was being carried out with the fullest sense that everything that the Seder was about had been fulfilled in Christ and in His supper, the last supper, the Holy Eucharist.* So for me, these are I believe, very important devotions which should be continued. Also, (it is) one of the important ways for Hebrew Catholics–what we were talking about before–to cultivate their particular identity within the Church, and the particular gift that they bring to the Church. As I observed, it’s not something that’s done in any hidden way, or ‘This is only for us, because we’re better than everyone else.’ On the contrary, I was invited, and others were invited, lay people and other priests, to participate in this devotion which was very enriching for me, I must say, as a non-Hebrew. So I would encourage (it) very much, and I don’t know of anything in the Church which says that this is prohibitive or this is wrong for Hebrew Catholics to have these special devotions particular to their own heritage.
*The Seder that Archbishop Burke is referring to is the 2007 AHC Seder in St. Louis, MO.
The 56-page booklet just published by the AHC, You Shall Be My Witnesses…Hebrew Catholics and the Mission of the Church, contains the entire interview above with then-Archbishop Burke and can be found at:
We want to thank those who sent in some feedback for us recently. There were a couple of you who said that they are doing Parish Seders. Please send us the feedback on your Seder experience. We will be sure to share with you our experience here with our first Seder. Some of you expressed disappointment that you had no Seder plans, but perhaps the “supperless” option would make it possible for you to celebrate at a regular havurah meeting. We hope this Havurah Newsletter will encourage you to rethink and plan a simple Seder even yet for this year.
May the Lord richly bless you this Lenten season, Passover, and Easter. We pray for the guidance of the Ruach HaKodesh in your havurot, your families, and your parishes. We pray also for the coming conclave as we await the election of our new Holy Father. Let’s pray for our Cardinal electors and for our beloved Pope Emeritus, our Holy Father Benedict XVI.
We ask for the intercession of Our Blessed Mother Miriam and St. Edith Stein for you and your havurot.
In Our Messiah Yeshua,
Ken and Flora Wilsker