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ND prepares for Easter weekend festivities

Van Oosterhout, K. Aaron | Thursday, April 8, 2004

Six security guards patrolling the Basilica? Aged pilgrims flocking by droves to participate in the Vigil Mass? A South Dining Hall chef spending the better part of a day hewing a massive sculpture from one solid chunk of ice?These are just a few of the typical pastimes that occupy Notre Dame staff during this sacred Easter weekend, as the campus community emerges from the introspective depths of the Lenten season to the joys of all things spring.The Basilica of the Sacred Heart hosts over a dozen Masses and processions throughout Holy Week, all culminating in the single most important event in the Church calendar, the Paschal Vigil Mass, held at 9 p.m. Saturday. The religious importance of this hallowed day cannot be underestimated, said Matt Briel, assistant University sacristan. “Every other liturgy is based off the Easter Vigil,” he said.Easter weekend will draw anywhere from 8,000 to 15,000 worshipers to the Basilica, as crowds of 2,000 or more cram each service at the building with a normal capacity of 1,600. These crowds make the Easter weekend services the highest attended of the year, topping Christmas masses by several thousand, Briel said.Students and their families comprise most of the attendees, but “subway alumni” add significantly to the numbers. These “alumni”, according to Briel, have never actually attended the university yet still feel a great attachment to it, whether through life as a die-hard Notre Dame sports fan or simply an avid churchgoer.”A lot of the geriatric set make it something of a pilgrimage,” Briel said. “They see this as the Catholic capital of the United States.”In order to handle the crowds, the Basilica adds four more security guards to its standard two, reinforcing the squadron in case of emergency. The security guards keep an eye on the altar in order to prevent any visitors from breaching the “sacred space,” Briel said. “We really believe that Jesus is there,” he said. “[The security guards] make sure that the space is held sacred.”After the Easter Sunday Masses, many visitors stream from the Basilica to South Dining Hall where a buffet awaits.”When the Basilica lets out, right around that time we really get hit,” said Marc Poklinkowski, general manager of South Dining Hall.Open from noon to 4:00 p.m. for Sunday brunch, the campus eatery offers diners everything from appetizers in the lobby to carved lamb in either of the two main halls.”It’s definitely our nicest meal of the year,” Poklinkowski said. “The cooks get in at four in the morning to put the lambs in the oven.”The seafood bisque, another item on Sunday’s menu, has been a crowd-pleaser for years, according to Poklinkowski. Patrons typically gulp down over 60 gallons of it during the brunch hours. “It’s kind of a special recipe,” he said.Aside from food, guests should expect to see elaborate decorations scattered throughout the hall, including 300 pounds of Easter candy, spring flowers and a giant Easter basket – carved entirely from one block of ice.Tony Williams, unit chef at the dining hall, was specially chosen for the task due to his past competition in area ice-carving festivals.”It takes about a day [to carve],” Poklinkowski said.Although the preparation is substantial, Poklinkowski said that he and his colleague’s work is worth the extra effort.”It seems that people appreciate it,” Poklinkowski said.