‘Stations through the Streets’ urge seeing and loving Jesus in the poor, suffering

Father Jeremy Freehill, pastor, and those taking part in the "Stations through the Streets" on Good Friday leave the Garden of Hope at St. Ann Church and begin a prayerful two-mile walk through Peoria's South Side neighborhoods. Carrying the cross is Diego Uribe. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

The Stations of the Cross conducted on Good Friday at St. Ann Parish in Peoria did not move from one artistic representation of Jesus’ journey to Calvary to another. Instead, participants walked from vacant lots to boarded-up buildings, traveling past taverns, barking dogs and across busy streets.

“Are we ready to go to one of the Calvaries of the world with God’s love?” asked Father Jeremy Freehill, pastor, before leading about 70 people on a two-mile walk through a neighborhood considered one of the state’s most impoverished.

The “Stations through the Streets” featured meditations written by Father Freehill that connected the events of Jesus’ Passion with challenges to see and love Christ in the poor and the least among us.

BEARING THE CROSS OF SUFFERING

On a vacant lot where St. John Catholic Church once stood, and with graffiti evident on the soon-to-be-razed former convent behind him, Father Freehill leads a reflection on the Second Station of the Cross during a “Stations through the Streets” through Peoria’s South Side on Good Friday. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

“We see Jesus standing there unwanted and unloved by so many,” reads the meditation on the First Station — Jesus is Condemned to Death. “A throwaway of society . . . discarded in an attempt for some to hold onto power, and for others to remain comfortable or complacent and so go on with life as it has always been, or as they want it to be.”

Father Freehill prayed that the Catholic Church would be filled with “missionary disciples” who bring the light of faith and hope today to “those who are condemned by others because of where they live, because of who they are, or because of their poverty.”

Among those he listed were victims of racism, the immigrant, the refugee, the addict, the unborn child condemned through abortion, the elderly living in isolation, the imprisoned, the disabled, and those discriminated against because of their religion or choices.

He pleaded for “the whole church to go to Calvary in order to follow Christ’s way of love and mercy for those who suffer under the weight of the Cross of Suffering.”

FROM A GARDEN TO A CALVARY

Jesus’ Passion began in the Garden of Gethsemane. The “Stations through the Streets” began in the Garden of Hope outside St. Ann Church.

Those taking part in the Good Friday “Stations through the Streets” of Peoria’s South Side make their way back to St. Ann Church for the Twelfth and final Station. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

Led by a processional cross carried alternately by brothers Diego, Angel, and Jose Uribe, the group then followed a path often walked by Father Freehill, who greeted curious neighbors watching the procession from their porches, yards or windows. Father Freehill handed out several religious medals and told them about St. Ann Parish.

One neighbor raised his voice at the group and denounced elements of the Catholic faith. Father Freehill diffused the situation by saying “We’re not here to debate, we’re here to pray.”

“Calvary has to have drama,” he told those in the front as the procession moved on to its next stop. But he emphasized that most neighbors he encounters are friendly, respectful, and open to his greetings, more so than any place he’s served. He compared the South Side neighborhood to its own small town.

The Second Station — Jesus Accepts His Cross — took place at the site of the former St. John Church, just a few blocks down Antoinette Street from St. Ann Church. The church was razed several years ago. The backdrop as Father Freehill spoke was the former St. John Convent, whose exterior walls are now covered with graffiti. The former convent, he said, will also soon be demolished.

His meditation at that station honored all who “carry a cross of sacrificial love” in today’s world, including parents, teachers, nurses, police officers, social workers, and “the Polish family taking in refugees from Ukraine.”

Father Freehill encouraged all to respond to Jesus’ summons “to go out to the poor and to all those who are hungry for love, beginning in our own homes.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: More photos from the “Stations through the Streets” have been posted to The Catholic Post’s site on Facebook. 

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