By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News
With public gatherings banned because of the COVID-19 pandemic, an annual Good Friday tradition of praying the Way of the Cross through the streets of Saskatoon had to be cancelled.
However, the prayers, reflections and spirit of the annual event continue through a virtual version released during Holy Week by the diocesan Office of Justice and Peace.
Virtual Way of the Cross on video:
Using technology to connect:
Just as with the traditional downtown prayer walk, the virtual video version of the annual Way of the Cross involves a variety of community groups and voices reflecting on the 14 stations of the scriptural stations of the cross as introduced in 1991 by Saint Pope John Paul II. The virtual version continues the event’s long-standing tradition of connecting the Good Friday events and the suffering of Jesus Christ to suffering and injustice in our world today.
Coordinated by Myron Rogal, diocesan coordinator of the Office of Justice and Peace, a range of individuals and groups read the scriptures, provide the reflections and lead the prayers, safely filming on phones and tablets in their homes, offices and churches.
The 14 individual files were then edited together to create a video version of the downtown prayer walk – including images of past events, showing hundreds following the cross through the city streets, praying and singing. In the video version, several of the traditional hymns featured at the annual event are sung by Melissa Anaetoh. (PDF of lyrics and stations: LINK)
“It was a devastating decision to cancel this popular Good Friday tradition for Catholics, Christians and others in our community who for 22 years have come out to participate,” said Rogal. “After much consultation locally and with counterparts across the prairies it was determined that there was no safe way to move ahead with the event and not turn people away. Then two hours after the decision was made, provincial health guidelines changed, implementing new restrictions which affirmed our decision to cancel.”
However, there was an immediate desire to continue the event in a new format, that would not involve gathering people together. “The vision of the online (video) event is to emulate the outdoor Way of the Cross that can be brought into your homes as you pray with the local church leading up to the passion of our Lord.”
The production is not seamlessly polished, reflecting the reality of Good Friday, added Rogal. “Just like the outdoor event, just like the road to Calvary, just like being a Christian, it is messy.”
“This particular Way of the Cross is scripturally based, which Saint Pope John Paul II developed in part as means to share in the passion of our Lord with other Christians,” said Rogal.
“These stations and their reflections are an attempt to prayerfully enter into the depth of the suffering of Christ who was mocked and ridiculed as he pitched his tent amongst us to heal each of us and all of the Earth,” he said. “The goal of these stations is not to showcase social inequalities but rather to draw attention to the deep unconditional love of Christ that continues to be rejected in our community today.”
List of stations, themes and participants:
Station 1: Jesus on the Mount of Olives, (Luke 22:39-46)
Theme: Finding strength in the Lord during the trials of Covid-19
Reflection: Carol Zubiak, Chair of the Justice and Peace Diocesan Advisory Council
Station 2: Jesus, betrayed by Judas, is arrested, (Luke 22:47-48)
Theme: The betrayal of family in our culture
Reflection: Mary Ann Posada and family, Couples for Christ Saskatoon
Station 3: Jesus is condemned by the Sanhedrin, (Luke 22:66-71)
Theme: Being indifferent to the truth
Reflection: Father Graham Hill, CSsR, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish and member of the Diocesan Council of Truth and Reconciliation
Station 4: Peter denies Jesus, (Luke 22:54-62)
Theme: When we deny Christ in the peoples and lands of the Amazon we deny of Christ in ourselves
Reflection: Dulce Reyes and family, Development and Peace / Caritas Canada
Station 5: Jesus is judged by Pilate, (Luke 23:13-25).
Theme: Judging and remaining indifferent to the plea of refugees and new Canadians,
Reflection: Co-written by Jude Dugbere, co-written and presented by Martin Nyai, and Ray Amiyok of the African-Canadian Catholic Community
Station 6: Jesus is scourged and crowned with thorns, (Luke 22:63-65, John 19:2-3)
Theme: When we mock creation, we mock our God who created it
Reflection: Tyrone Miranda, Michael MacLean and the STM Laudato Si’ Group
Station 7: Jesus takes up the cross, (Mark 15:20)
Theme: Belonging to Christ and one another through the cross
Reflection: Connie Crichton, Catholic Women’s League of Canada (CWL)
Station 8: Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry his cross, (Luke 23:26)
Theme: Carrying our burdens together with Jesus
Reflection: Wyndham Thiessen, L’Arche Saskatoon
Station 9: Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem, (Luke 23:27-31)
Theme: Being awake to the sufferings of others
Reflection: Jacqueline Saretsky, Coordinator of Hospital Chaplaincy for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon
Station 10: Jesus is crucified, (Luke 23:33,47).
Theme: Jesus is near the workers whose dignity is being diminished
Reflection: Written by Frank Dodd, volunteer with the Roman Catholic diocese; reflection read by Kevin Bentler
Station 11: Jesus promises his Kingdom to the good thief, (Luke 23:33-34,39-43).
Theme: Father forgive us for denying food to our brothers and sisters
Reflection: Myron Rogal, Grow Hope Saskatchewan
Station 12: Jesus on the cross, his mother and his disciple, (John 19:25b-27)
Theme: Reaching out to persecuted Christians like members of our own family
Reflection: Nadeem Bhatti, Canadian Aid to Persecuted Christians
Station 13: Jesus dies on the cross, (Luke 23:44-46)
Silent reflection Following Scripture reading
Reflection: Adrien Piche and Frank Brown, Knights of Columbus Honour Guard
Station 14: Jesus is placed in the tomb, (Luke 23:50-54).
A summary reflection, prayer and benediction: Bishop Mark Hagemoan Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon