Stations, other devotions help diocese journey to Holy Week

Photo Caption: In a scene from last Good Friday, participants in an outdoor Stations of the Cross at St. Joseph’s Priory in rural Princeville carry a cross. The public is invited to this year’s devotion April 2.

By: By Jennifer Willems

Lent is often described as a journey because it presents so many opportunities to move from sin and death to hope and new life in the risen Christ.

Catholics in central Illinois have been making that prayerful pilgrimage by various routes throughout these 40 days and will continue to do so as the church celebrates Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion next weekend and then enters into Holy Week. Among the guides will be Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, who is planning to lead a group of young people to the altar of repose at three churches in Peoria on Holy Thursday, April 1.

A custom that was revived last year, the pilgrimage will begin with the Mass of the Lord’s Supper at 7:15 p.m. at St. Mary’s Cathedral. Afterward a bus will be available to transport young adults to St. Joseph’s Church, 103 Richard Pryor Place; St. Philomena’s Church, 3200 N. Twelve Oaks Drive; and St. Vincent de Paul Church, 6001 N. University St., before returning to the cathedral.

Christopher Kreps, vice chancellor and administrative assistant to Bishop Jenky, said each church has been invited to prepare a short meditation for the pilgrims that may include music. There will also be time for silent prayer.

He said they are expecting groups from St. Joseph Catholic Newman Center at Bradley University and St. Robert Bellarmine Catholic Newman Center at Illinois State University, as well as the seminarians of the Diocese of Peoria. Because transportation will be limited, Kreps said people should be prepared to drive themselves.

“Last year was the first year we did it and it was very successful,” Kreps told The Catholic Post. “We were surprised at how many people joined us.”
He said they left St. Mary’s Cathedral with about 100 people and the group easily doubled in size before they returned.

“It seemed like we picked up more people at every church,” said Kreps, who rode in the bus last year. He marveled at the way the young adults entered into the spirit of the vigil by remaining silent throughout the evening.

He said the group will leave the cathedral at about 8:50 p.m., and arrive at St. Joseph’s at 9 p.m., St. Philomena’s at 9:30 p.m., and St. Vincent de Paul at 10 p.m. They should be back at St. Mary’s at about 10:30 p.m. (Times are approximate.)


Come rain or shine, the Brothers, Sisters and Oblates of the Community of St. John pray the Stations of the Cross each Good Friday by processing through the monastery grounds, according to Father John-Therese Creus, CSJ, novice master and vocation director. Joining them are friends of the Princeville religious community.

Leading the way is the cross that stands in front of the monastery throughout the year. It is carried by volunteers, who take turns shouldering it.

They will start with prayer in the chapel at 9 a.m. on April 2 and make their way back to the chapel at about noon, Father John-Therese said.
The group prays the rosary and sings hymns as they walk and priests of the community will follow at a short distance so that people can celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation if they wish, he told The Post. Meditations are offered at each of the 14 Stations and people will have time for silent prayer before the procession resumes.

“We clear a path — it’s a good path,” Father John-Therese said. “But it’s a big area. Sometimes it rains, sometimes it snows and sometimes it’s muddy. It can be challenging.”

The students at St. John’s Catholic Newman Center at the University of Illinois in Champaign take their faith to the community — literally — by presenting Living Stations of the Cross on the Quad on Good Friday each year. This year’s presentation will take place at noon on April 2.

David Hazen, director of communications, said that because spring break would be over by then the Living Stations would take place in full view of people changing classes or walking the campus.

He said the group is expected to gather in the south lobby of the Newman Center for a brief prayer led by Msgr. Gregory Ketcham, chaplain and director, and Father Luke Spannagel and Father Anthony Co, assistant chaplains, before going to the Quad. A narrator will lead the group from Station to Station, reading from the text while about a dozen students bring the Passion to life.

A small choir will also accompany the group.

“We had a couple hundred people who ended up joining the procession last year,” Hazen said, noting that the devotion draws people from the Champaign and Urbana communities at large, as well as the university. Among them have parishioners from St. Matthew’s Parish in Champaign led by their pastor, Msgr. Mark Merdian.

Like the Princeville Stations, the group at St. John’s Catholic Newman Center will proceed whether or not the weather is “friendly,” Hazen said.

When Pam Smith was going through the RCIA process at St. Mary’s Church in Bloomington, she decided it would be a good idea to do the Stations of the Cross during Lent “just to make sure I really understood what I was getting into.”

She was overwhelmed.

“It was all I could do to hold it together,” Smith told The Post.
Five years later, she still goes to Stations of the Cross on the Fridays of Lent with four of her friends from RCIA. Most of the time she serves as the cross bearer.

What she couldn’t understand, however, is why so few people joined them. Smith estimated the average weekly attendance at about 25.

She talked to Father Ric Schneider, OFM, pastor, who told her that when he was young the churches were filled for Stations of the Cross. “I thought, ‘It’s time to bring it back,'” she said.

With Father Ric’s blessing and inspiration from the Gospel of Mark, Smith started an effort called “Ye Fishers of Men.” The goal was to get 10 people to form “boats” and then invite 10 people to join them for Stations.
Deacon Darrel Petri commissioned the leaders before the first Friday of Lent and they got busy. This year between 125 and 150 people have been gathering in St. Mary’s Church each Friday night to pray, Smith said.

“We had some boats that had 15 and some had seven,” she said. “I’m so excited about how the parish embraced this. It’s all new. Some have never been to Stations before.”

While the focus in on prayer, a byproduct has been fellowship. Smith noted that some groups meet for coffee or dinner before they come to church and others get together for dessert afterward.

“People are coming up and saying, ‘This is so neat. I’m getting to know people in the parish I haven’t known before,'” she said.

“We’re off to a good beginning and looking forward to growing next year and the year after, igniting the hearts of the people,” Smith told The Post.

“Our goal next year is to have 20 boats.”

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