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Nota Bene May 3, 2019

North Shore Catholics take turns carrying large wooden cross

By Peter Nation

Members of St. Edmund's Parish take turns carrying a wooden cross on their backs on Good Friday. (Photo submitted)

More than 300 parishioners from St. Edmund’s, Holy Trinity, and St. Paul’s parishes united to bring their faith into the public square on Good Friday morning.

Led by six altar servers, a procession of babies in buggies, lively children, a bicyclist, people in the prime of life, and the venerable elderly, trudged along a penitential and sometimes muddy route under an appropriately grey sky.

Teams of parishioners took turns carrying the wooden cross on their shoulders from St. Edmund’s Church, through Ottawa Gardens, to Victoria Park, and back to the church. They paused at each Station for a Gospel reading and prayers by Father Vincent D’Souza as well as Deacons Rennie Nahanee and Richard Podgurski, and continued to subsequent stations while singing verses of the Stabat Mater.

This Good Friday event was initiated by Father John Tritchler, pastor of Holy Trinity parish, in the early 1990s. In those years, the route was from Holy Trinity all the way down Lonsdale Avenue, to Esplanade, and back. As the North Shore grew, traffic became too heavy for a procession which included the elderly, children on bicycles, and moms pushing baby buggies, so for safety reasons, Father Jim Comey, Holy Trinity pastor at that time, chose a safer route. Over the years the number of worshipers has grown from the original three to three hundred.

Why do parishioners make the effort, typically in wet Good Friday weather, to walk these Stations of the Cross?

For Vilma Pilar, “the outdoor ambiance is very important in setting the mood for the journey.  It helps to spiritually ground me and put me in the 'shoes' of the Lord. Surrounded by the natural beauty of the park and nature, it adds a very special feel and creates a deeper connection as we pray through the Stations. The outdoor set up encourages a level of commitment because of the uncertainties of Mother Nature. Walking through the stations rain or shine heightens the emotions you feel in prayer.”

For Serafino and Zuzana Vignone, “to contemplate more deeply Christ’s Passion in a natural setting makes it a very spiritual experience every year.” They said they enjoy spending quality spiritual time with their children and their faith community.

The Vignones want their children “to realize what our faith is like and how privileged we are that our friend died for us.”  

Antonio (6) and Natalie (4), participate because they “like doing things outside and hearing about Jesus.” From participating in the Stations, they learned “how Jesus was nailed on the cross” and that “Jesus had to walk far.”

What stuck with Doug McDonald this year is “the memory of lifting high the cross, with a sea of people from three parishes, working their way among the trees.” He said meditating on the suffering servant brought him closer to God, and hopes this will inspire others “to walk the stony path in Jerusalem.”

Grace Zhang said she participates because, “Jesus accompanies us every day and every walks with us in the journey of our life. On Good Friday, it is my turn to accompany him, walk with him, and carry the cross for him.”

“Sometimes we don't know what we are doing, and we put others on the cross.  Jesus said when we do that, we actually put him on the cross. I ask Jesus to open my eyes to see, open my ears to listen, open my mind to understand, and open my heart to love him and others so that I won't put him and them on the cross.”

“Jesus is risen from dead, Alleluia! We are risen with him!”

See more photos from Holy Week around the archdiocese here.