By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News
[SASKATOON, April 19. 2019] – Singing and praying, hundreds took part in an annual outdoor Way of the Cross on Good Friday, reflecting on the passion and death of Jesus in light of issues, suffering and injustice in the world today.
Following the Scriptural Stations of The Cross introduced by Saint Pope John Paul II, representatives of different groups and cultures stopped at 14 spots along the route, reading scripture, offering a reflection and a prayer.
The outdoor justice and peace Stations of the Cross have been held on Good Friday in Saskatoon for more than 20 years, organized by the diocesan Office of Justice and Peace with help from many partners and volunteers.
Reflections during the 2019 event addressed faith-based education, human trafficking, poverty, freedom of conscience, forced migration, care for creation, inclusion of those living with disabilities, hunger and food security, the suffering of women, the prison system, truth and reconciliation, and homelessness.
Station 1: Jesus on the Mount of Olives, (Luke 22:39-46).
Theme:. Access to faith-based education, Pearleen Kanewopasikot, Vice Principal of St. Frances Nehiyaw (Cree) Bilingual School
“Catholic Education provides sacred space for prayer and reflection. The Catholic School system is a safe and welcoming space for Indigenous students and staff to practice prayer and ceremony,” she said. “How will you respond to Jesus’ call to be vigilant and pray? Will you stand up for the ability for parents to choose a Catholic education for their children, no matter the reason?”
Let us pray: Lord, thank you for the gift of Catholic education, for the ability of educators to nourish spiritual maturity in addition to intellectual, physical and emotional growth. You call us to act, to stay awake and pray. May we always be faithful to your call to be true disciples—to stay with you through trials, to follow you along the Way of the Cross, and to know that your providential love overcomes all trials and hardships. Amen.
Station 2: Jesus, betrayed by Judas, is arrested, (Luke 22:47-48).
Theme: The betrayal of commodifying human beings, written by Hope Restored Canada and read by Carol Zubiak chair of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon Diocesan Justice and Peace Advisory Council.
“How often do we, like Judas, commodify human beings? Human trafficking is modern day slavery,” she said. Human trafficking “by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation” includes prostitution and sexual exploitation, forced labour, slavery, and removal of human organs.
“We all have a responsibility to protect our women, girls and youth and to support actions to eradicate sexual exploitation which includes preventative measures and addressing demand. This includes getting to the root of the problem of degradation of the human life and the commodification of one’s sexuality.”
Let us pray that we end our betrayal of the millions of people sold in the world every day for selfish desires. We pray that with God’s empowerment, compassion, discernment and wisdom we might come to know these people who have been objectified, and take action to secure their dignity. We pray for all victims and survivors who experienced the life by choice, coercion or circumstance as we pray and contend for the freedom, dignity, hope and restoration of all. We pray for a day when sexual exploitation will be eradicated and that we might acknowledge the intrinsic worth of each person with honour without normalizing control and manipulation. May this begin in our hearts, extend to our families and seek to engage the world. Amen.
Station 3: Jesus is condemned by the Sanhedrin, (Luke 22:66-71).
Theme: Condemning our brothers and sisters in Christ who do not have access to basic medications, reflection by Mildred Kerr of the Saskatoon Anti-Poverty Coalition.
She pointed to the “suffering of our elderly, our working poor, our dependent poor who cannot afford their medical prescriptions” and calls by the Council on Aging and anti-poverty organizations to provide full pharmacare coverage – “just like all western countries with national health programs have except Canada!”
We pray: Lord hear our prayer that through your sacrifice on the cross we continue to work together to end the injustices distressing our society, Amen.
Station 4: Peter denies Jesus, (Luke 22:54-62).
Theme: Denying the gift of conscience that we have been entrusted with; reflection by Dr. Mary Heilman Bioethicist, Catholic Health Association of Saskatchewan.
“In the new reality that the legalization of euthanasia and assisted suicide have created in our country, we find challenges to the gift of free will. While some use this gift to make a choice for death, others challenge the freedom of conscience of healthcare professionals who would choose not to be involved in these destructive acts,” she said. “Through it all we see that freedom of conscience is a call to respect each person’s ability to hear the voice of God in his or her life, and to follow God’s will to its fulfillment.”
“Will we fight to ensure that every person’s freedom to follow the call of God is respected, regardless of their religion, social class, or professional vocation? How will we use our gift of conscience to find the path God is calling us to follow?”
Let us pray: Lord, thank you for entrusting us with the gift of free will. Help us to cherish conscience as our “secret core and sanctuary,” a place where Your voice can sound in our heart and call us to love what is good and to avoid evil. May we defend the rights of all persons to follow the call of their conscience, and may all those who have the courage to embrace life in the face of death feel your strengthening grace in their lives. Amen.
Station 5: Jesus is judged by Pilate, (Luke 23:13-25).
Theme: Judging and remaining indifferent to the plea of refugees and new Canadians, (built off of the Development and Peace “Share the Journey” campaign), reflection by teacher Michael Lichtenwald and Jemini, Paetyn and Tyce, members of his Grade 4 class of Georges Vanier Catholic Fine Arts School.
They described how students in the school have been learning about the reasons for forced migration, what life is like for refugees, the need not to judge people unfairly, and how the help of many will be needed to assist the many who are forced to flee their homes. The school has been working with Development and Peace’s “Share the Journey” campaign to raise awareness, to raise funds, and to organize a school Share the Journey walk in May 2019.
Let us pray, that we may be like good seed fallen into soil which yields empathy, understanding, compassion, forgiveness, friendship, mercy and love. Let us not fall into the temptation to judge, lest we be judged. Lord, help us to remove barriers that prevent us from being whole, that prevent us from loving our neighbours, Amen.
Station 6: Jesus is scourged and crowned with thorns, (Luke 22:63-65, John 19:2-3)
Theme: Care for creation, written by Sarah Grace Warman of Servant Partners, read by Myron Sirman.
“The suffering of the land, of farmers and factory workers is often veiled to us through the opaqueness of the global production chain and corporate practices like greenwashing or certifications that fail to mitigate global experiences of inequality. We too can be blindfolded to the sources of suffering and the truth of our interconnectedness and interdependence with the community of Creation. Yet, together we can commit to having our eyes opened and embody the solidarity of Christ to all that suffer,” he said.
“If the wholeness of Creation is the body of Christ, how may we be crucifying Christ even still? Where may we be acting in manners which cause hurt, harm, and degradation rather than what would support collective flourishing and abundant life?”
Let us pray:Lord Jesus awaken and guide us in ways that respect and enhance ALL life on our suffering earth. May we sacrifice our attitudes and actions that damage and destroy life; and may we act to maintain a healthy earth for all beings and for all our sisters and brothers. Amen
Station 7: Jesus takes up the cross, (Mark 15:20).
Theme: Belonging through the cross, reflection by members of L’Arche Saskatoon.
“People with intellectual disabilities often find themselves in similarly lonely places—outside of the walls of Jerusalem, with few people nearby who could be called friends. It is not always easy for people with intellectual disabilities to find places of belonging, because it is not always easy for others to welcome them with open arms and open hearts,” said Wyndham Thiessen.
“May we all work towards building communities that are welcoming and open, communities that celebrate the beauty and dignity of all people, so that all people can know and feel that they belong.”
Let us pray:Lord, give us hearts that are open and welcoming. Help us to love all people with the expansive love that you have shown to us. Inspire us to work with you to build a world where everyone belongs. Amen
Station 8: Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry his cross, (Luke 23:26).
Theme:. Walking with our brothers and sisters globally and locally to ensure all have access to food, reflection by Rick and Jaquie Block of the Canadian Foodgrains Bank.
“Jesus, like all of us, understood our need for daily bread; it is a basic sustenance that gives us the energy to live, work and love one another. Without food life quickly becomes a struggle,” said Jaquie. “Sadly, while the world we live in has enough food for us all, 821 million of us remain hungry. Conflict and climate variability are leading to an increase in this number, and many women, men and children both here in Canada and throughout the world suffer because they do not have a secure ac-cess to food.”
“When there is such a great need it is difficult to know how to respond, and we might not want to; perhaps we had other plans for our day. But we can choose to be gracious, experience the burden for a time and help Jesus finish his work here on earth.”
Let us pray:Let us pray that we can come together shedding our want of excess in order to build a community where every person has enough to eat. Amen
Station 9: Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem, (Luke 23:27-31).
Theme: Grace through suffering for those suffering spiritually, physically or mentally, written and read by the Hispanic Catholic Community of Saskatoon, in both Spanish and English.
“In this ninth station, Jesus encounters the women of Jerusalem and consoles them. In our world today we encounter many women, mothers, grandmothers, wives, that have been forgotten in care homes, hospitals, places of refuge, in the streets and sometimes in their own homes,” said the Hispanic Catholic Community members. “Women that due to injustice, discrimination, government corruption, indifference of their brothers and sisters; are suffering of loneliness and of the destruction of their dignity. These women are also suffering different type of illness, physical and spiritual. Today like 2000 years ago, Jesus continues to be our hope and consolation…“do not weep, do not be afraid’. But at the same time he invites us to look at those who suffer, to break down our indifference to the pain and suffering of our brother and sisters in Christ.”
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, help us to not be indifferent to the pain of our brothers and sisters. Lord, that those who see us, recognize in us your presence. That we may be your hands, your feet, your heart, your arms to all those who need You. Lord bless all women who suffer from pain in their body and spirit. Help us to console one another with your fraternal love. Amen.
Station 10: Jesus is crucified, (Luke 23:33,47).
Theme: Restorative justice, healing today and hope ahead, Russ Powell volunteer for the Roman Catholic Office of Restorative Ministry which provides outreach and ministry at Saskatoon Correctional Centre.
Russ Powell shared the words of an inmate, who experienced transformation through a program offered by Dianne Anderson, diocesan coordinator of Restorative Ministry: “Once I was a snake, crawling on my belly in the grass, striking out and poisoning anyone who came near. Now I am a man, with arms and legs, standing tall.” The words tell a powerful story of one man’s honesty and struggle to find healing while in a dark place – jail.
“Sadly, such stories are rare for those caught in our justice system, a system whose function is to punish offenders and to warehouse them. We have correctional facilities that focus on security and control and place little emphasis on correction; penitentiaries that are not designed to promote penitence; and a legal system that cannot provide true and lasting justice; that is to say, restoration, redemption and healing,” he continued.
“Do we want our society to continue being one where the deficiencies of our justice system leave offenders angry and alienated and many of the rest of us fearful and demanding vengeance?”
Let us pray:
Lord, you were betrayed to your death by the justice system of your day. We pray to you for the vision, strength and tenacity to create a system that:
- Promotes healing and restoration for victims of crime,
- Believes in and promotes healing and redemption for offenders,
- And promotes healing for communities damaged by crime.
We pray for your justice. Amen
Station 11: Jesus promises his Kingdom to the good thief, (Luke 23:33-34,39-43).
Theme: Hope and reconciliation in relationship with one another throughChrist, presented by Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, read by Sandi Harper.
“In Canada, Many First Nation, Inuit, and Métis people find it hard to maintain faith in Christian institutions because of the way that the churches collaborated with the government’s policy of ‘aggressive assimilation’ in the past. The residential school scandal is indeed a national disgrace, but when that scandal is allowed to become a stumbling block to faith, that too, is a scandal—literally – the very word ‘scandal’ means an obstacle to ‘faith in’ or ‘obedience to God’,” she said.
“God’s mercy transforms us— it enables us to overcome our alienation, our hurts, our wounds, and to see ourselves as we are… God’s mercy, which flows through Christ’s wounds, says to a thief: ‘Today you will be with me in Paradise.’ God’s mercy calls to us today to face up to the wrongs of the past, to seek for forgiveness, and to be reconciled. ”
In prayer let us ponder: Do we allow ourselves to stand in the mercy of God, as faith-filled people— open to forgiveness and reconciliation, or do we prefer to sarcastically scoff at those who work for reconciliation and healing?Today we ask for God’s mercy and guidance as we build a culture of reconciliation. Amen
Station 12: Jesus on the cross, his mother and his disciple, (John 19:25b-27).
Theme: Creating homes for the houseless, Lighthouse, read by a volunteer.
“Jesus hung on the cross, rejected and scorned by so many. Had he committed a crime? No. Those who experience homelessness in our community are often judged and condemned by society. They are seen as a problem to be ‘solved.’ Individuals and families who struggle with homelessness are often viewed as responsible for creating their own situation. Poverty and homelessness are too often criminalized by our legal system, and condemned by the opinions of passersby,” she said.
“Those who are homeless in our community do not choose to be so. Individuals and families facing homelessness struggle to find shelter and affordable housing. Youth often find themselves in potentially abusive situations due to having no options but couch-surfing. We live in a country with enough wealth for there to be housing for all. The crime of homelessness is that people still find they have nowhere to sleep on a night like tonight. Jesus said that likewise, the Son of Man had nowhere to lay His head.”
We pray: Lord help us see those who face homelessness through your eyes. Help us see them with dignity and compassion. Those who are homeless are victims of a crime they did not create. Allow us to love, support and care for them as you would have us do. Open our hearts to provide love and support to individuals and families facing homelessness. Remind us that you were at times homeless during your life on this earth. Let us pray for those who face homelessness even tonight. We pray they would receive shelter and housing as they look for it. Amen.
Station 13: Jesus dies on the cross, (Luke 23:44-46).
Silent reflection following Scripture reading, read by Knights of Columbus D’Arcy McGee Assembly #1065, organized by Adrien Piche.
Station 14: Jesus is placed in the tomb, (Luke 23:50-54).
A summary reflection, written and read by Saskatoon and area church leaders, including Bishop Bryan Bayda of the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Saskatoon, Bishop Mark Hagemoen of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon, and Bishop Emeritus Rodney Andrews , retired Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Saskatoon.
“Christian tradition holds that Jesus’ death was a true death, and that he descends into hell with all the souls of the dead. But in fulfillment of the prophets, he is raised again from the dead, and he breaks the chains of bondage, releasing those enslaved by sin, rescuing those who suffer injustice, restoring all creation, and reconciling all people. So Jesus’ story does not end here, in the tomb of Good Friday. Our story does not end in tragedy and despair. We need not flee like the disciples in fear for the future, because we know as people of faith that Jesus will rise from this tomb, and so we live in faith and hope that we too will rise with Christ on the last day.”
Concluding Prayer– Let us pray for all who suffer: for the hungry and the homeless, the deprived and the oppressed, for the sick, the wounded, and the handicapped, for those in loneliness and in fear, for those in confusion, doubt, and despair, for the sorrowful and bereaved, for prisoners, and all at the point of death, that God’s love will comfort and sustain them, and that we may be stirred up to minister to them. Faithful and compassionate God, the comfort of all who sorrow, the strength of all who suffer, hear the cry of all who call on you in any trouble, grant them the joy of receiving your help in their need, and give us, we pray, the strength to serve them, through Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.