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Unlocking Holy Week's Potential on Campus: A How-To Guide

Sarah Harmon
Written By Sarah Harmon
On Mar, 21 2024
9 minute read

On a college campus, Holy Week can get lost in the shuffle of classes, spring break, weekend plans, and who knows what else. If students attend a Good Friday service between classes, we consider it a major win! 

However, Holy Week is more than just a check-the-box moment in our Liturgical year — it is a profound opportunity for students to encounter Christ crucified in a deep and life-changing way. 

The question is: how do you get them in the pews?

In this guide, we walk you through the timeline of Holy Week and give you a variety of ideas for each day on how to better engage your students and draw them deeper into the mystery of Christ’s Passion and Resurrection. 

Use Called to Organize and Promote Holy Week Activities



Before Holy Week begins
, post on social media and in your ministry messaging app (you all are using Called, right??). 

Here are some ideas of things you can share with your students leading into Holy Week:

  1. Our FREE Holy Week companion to guide you from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday that includes:
    1. Daily reflections on the readings
    2. Explanation of the liturgy
  2. Create a “Holy Week Group” on Called so you and your students can:
    1. share prayer intentions
    2. receive a daily prayer wallpaper for Holy Week to share with your students and help you center your focus for the day
    3. get ideas for each day of Holy Week, from recipes for Holy Thursday’s “Christover” meal to stations for Good Friday to Easter Vigil after-party ideas!
  3. Lastly, create and share a playlist for Holy Week from Spotify.

Onto Palm Sunday!

Palm Sunday


Jesus entering Jerusalem with people putting blankets down and welcoming him with palms.

Share our free Holy Week companion to help your students enter Palm Sunday and every day of Holy Week!

Consider hosting a Sunday brunch, instructing students how to make Palm Crosses after Palm Sunday Mass. 

Palmcakes, anyone???

Monday Through Wednesday of Holy Week

Monday through Wednesday of Holy Week, share reflections from our Holy Week companion and advertise for the upcoming Holy Triduum, the HOLIEST time in the Church year!! 

Holy Thursday

Here are some ideas to highlight throughout the Triduum:

Before Holy Thursday’s evening Mass

The Jewish people celebrate the Passover every year with a Seder meal, prescribed by Moses in the Old Covenant. The Seder meal foreshadowed the Eucharist, which was instituted by Jesus in the New Covenant.

Since the Seder meal has been fulfilled in the Eucharist, Christians do not partake in the Old Covenant by conducting the religious observance of the Seder meal. However, there can be educational and devotional meals in order to remember our Jewish roots.

Consider a dinner in the following format prior to attending Holy Thursday Mass together:

  1. Prepare a meal with the following ingredients:
    1. roasted lamb (remembering the Passover lamb, which foreshadowed Jesus, the Lamb of God)
    2. a cooked green (Ex, spinach, kale, collards)
    3. Celery sticks in salt water (represent the bitter herbs eaten at the Passover meal)
    4. Applesauce mixed with cinnamon and raisins (represents the “charoset” eaten during the Passover meal, which symbolizes the mortar used by the Jewish people to build the Egyptian buildings while in slavery)
    5. Homemade Matzah (unleavened bread): Combine flour, salt water, and oil, roll and flatten into rounds, and bake in the oven. (Many recipes can be found online with exact proportions!)
    6. Wine or grape juice, depending on age or preference
  2. Set the table with a white tablecloth and the nicest tableware you have. This is a big feast day in the Church, and a solemn celebration is fitting!
  3. Before dinner, read John 13:1- 17 aloud, and each person washes the feet of the person next to them, seeking to imitate Jesus interiorly and exteriorly. Simply pouring water over the foot and drying it with a towel is sufficient (no need to scrub!)
  4. Once seated at the table, Exodus 12:1-20 is read aloud, the story of the first Passover.
  5. Then, any of the three synoptic Gospels (Matt 26:17-30; Mk 14:12-26; or Lk 22:7-10) is read aloud.
  6. Recall the rich traditions surrounding this Holy Thursday evening, celebrate the meal together, and share any reflections that came about during the simple actions.
  7. Ride together to Holy Thursday Mass, and enter with a full stomach and full heart into the Easter Triduum!


After Holy Thursday’s Evening Mass

After the Holy Thursday liturgy, take the evening to simply follow along with any of the suggested meditations in our Holy Week companion. 


Good Friday


Jesus on the Cross


On Good Friday, you can point your students to learn more about Good Friday and have some helpful meditations, stations of the cross, reflections, etc., in our Holy Week companion.

Additionally, consider hosting a student-led (or written!) Stations of the Cross. Check out these College ministry examples:

Some campuses, like LSU and Virginia Tech, have students write the Stations of the Cross. See LSU’s example here. At the University of Iowa’s Newman Center, they conduct outdoors Stations of the Cross around campus:

“Our priest usually leads it; there is a cross that those participating take turns carrying. The walk is around our college campus, and our priest poses the question to ponder between each station as people are walking. People share their response at each station.“ - Christine Wissink, Campus Minister at the University of Iowa.

Some notes on fasting and additional ideas for mortification you can encourage your students to participate in: 

  1. Fast not just from food but also from extra activity, noise, and external activity. 
  2. Spend the day in rest and silence, allowing space to reflect and ponder, even picking one station of the cross to ponder each hour, however briefly.
  3. Set a simple alarm at 3 pm if unable to attend the Good Friday service, spending a few moments in silence, remembering that this is the hour Jesus died.


Holy Saturday

On Holy Saturday, as you await the Easter Vigil liturgy, anticipating our Lord’s victory over sin and death, here are a few ways to spend the day:

  1. Conduct a walking rosary around campus, spending the day waiting with Our Lady
  2. Reflect on the meditations provided in our Holy Week companion.
  3. Dress handsomely and beautifully for the Easter Vigil that evening!


After-Easter Vigil-party!

Christ is Risen!!! Indeed, He is Risen!

Now, it’s time to celebrate and bask in the Glory of Easter! A great way to celebrate with your students following the Vigil is by throwing a breakfast-at-midnight meal.

(Have you ever thought how similar a pancake looks to the stone in front of the tomb? Coincidence? I think NOT!)


Easter Sunday


The rock has been moved from Jesus's burial site, and a white cloth is left on the stone.


How should you feast on Easter Sunday???

Anything to celebrate! Potluck, Roll-away-the-tomb-pancake breakfast, Easter egg hunt, an outdoor Easter celebration - we suggest doing anything to help your students enter into the celebratory spirit of Christ’s Resurrection!


Have a Transformational Holy Week on Campus

We hope this can help jumpstart a transformational end of Lent on your campus. Know that we are praying for you and your students.

Comment below with any other ideas to make Holy Week on a College Campus memorable!


Ways We Can Help You in Your Ministry

Newman Ministry exists to connect students with a Catholic community on campus so their Faith thrives in college and beyond. Here’s how we ensure high school seniors keep their faith in college and campus ministers are equipped to inspire lifelong disciples:


  1. High School Outreach, our flagship program, is a simple-to-implement program that
    connects high school seniors to campus ministries at their college of choice before they
    get to campus. Sign Up Today. >>>

  2. First90 is our coach-led, cohort-based program made for campus ministers to set their ministry up for long-term success. If you’re a campus minister, we equip you to work more effectively and better focus your time and energy on ministering to your students. Learn More Today. >>>

  3. Campus Minister Small Groups provide a space for campus ministers to set and accomplish personal and professional goals alongside other campus ministers with a Newman Coach as the guide. Join a Small Group Today. >>>

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