Way of the Cross traditions shared

GATES — Statues of Christ’s suffering carried in Way of the Cross processions that cover miles through a city, a recreation of the city of Jerusalem and re-enactments of the crucifixion of Jesus are some of the Lenten traditions that continue through the present day in Latin American countries.

Discussion of those traditions and customs were part of a luncheon series offered by the diocese’s Cultural Diversity Office at the Pastoral Center. The series will continue April 22 with a presentation led by Deacon Patrick Graybill about how to communicate with the deaf.

The discussion of the Latin American traditions, most of which occur during Holy Week and the Triduum, began with a clip from documentary, "Semana Santa in Seville" (Holy Week in Seville), detailing the foundation of some of those customs: a long-standing procession in Seville, Spain, carrying life-sized statues of Jesus and Mary.

"We’re not used to seeing real-life images of Jesus’ suffering here," said Lynette Saenz, director of cultural diversity for the diocese’s Office of Parish and Clergy Services. "But across Latin America, those are a normal part of life."

As Spain brought their traditions to the New World, so do immigrants who move to the United States, noted Elizabeth Johnston, the intercultural program specialist for the Cultural Diversity Office.

St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Parish leads two processions in the city on Good Friday, said copastor Father Bob Werth, with parishioners dressed as Jesus, Mary and the women, and the Roman guards.

"There’s no reason why any of the parishes can’t get back to these traditions," he said. "Like Jesus said, ‘Let the people free.’ … People are longing for this."

During the presentation, Saenz also showed images of traditions that continue to draw thousands of participants in such countries as Brazil, Mexico, Peru, El Salvador, Guatemala, Bolivia and Venezuela.

In Brazil, there is a place called New Jerusalem that encompasses 24 square meters that is home to a large-scale re-enactment of the events of Holy Week with thousands of participants, she said. The country has the largest Catholic population in the world, Saenz added.

In Iztapalapa, Mexico, 2.3 million pilgrims participate in the Way of the Cross, she said. Father Jesús Flores, director of migrant ministry, said the tradition is very emotional as a volunteer will be crucified "in a very real way."

"People come from all over Mexico City," he said. "It is an impressive event."

Jorge Salgado, a migrant minister, said Catholics in his native Peru create a carpet of flowers on Easter Sunday and bring thousands of lights. A procession on the holy day begins at 5 a.m.

"Most of these traditions and processions are organized by the people," said Father Flores. "They are a real way a community can practice their faith."

EDITOR’S NOTE: To watch the documentary of the Way of the Cross in Sevilla, Spain, visit https://youtu.be/aybBxUnG-l0.

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