Living Stations offer hope

Jesus Falls the Third Time- With Simon (holding cross) and Mary (far left).

Mike Stack kept teaching as he directed the young people who were preparing for one last dramatic presentation of the Living Stations of the Cross.

“Remember to show the love that Jesus has for each of us,” he instructed. “Simon represents every one of us, and how we should show kindness and help others with their burdens.”

This was no ordinary rehearsal. For the first time since the tradition of the Living Stations began 37 years ago at St. Ferdinand Parish in Cranberry, it was held outdoors, and outside of the Lenten season.

Normally, 30 teens and 20 adults present the prayer service seven times each year in different churches. When the coronavirus pandemic struck in March, however, they had to shut down after only two stagings. That was especially hard on the 17 high school seniors in the youth group, which also includes members of St. Gregory Parish in Zelienople. Most have been involved in the program since 8th grade.

“I leave for college on Saturday and have grown up with this group, so I’m glad we had one more chance to be together,” said Evan Moeller, 18, who portrayed Simon. “Our adult volunteers are so dedicated and really wanted to make this happen.”

Elena Ponpzius, 17, who played the role of Mary, said that the “Living Stations has helped me to grow in my faith, seeing the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus from a different perspective.”

The actor who portrayed Jesus, Mike Beggy, 18, found a blessing in the change of plans.

“It’s special to finish this way,” he said. “We didn’t know if we would have a final service, and it’s awesome to hold it outdoors for the first time ever.”

As the rehearsal unfolded under threatening skies, the stage crew set up the lighting, sound system and props. Then the teens put on their costumes and makeup one last time. Socially-distanced families enjoyed the enactment on the annex lawn, hardly noticing the rain showers.

“God is still here for us,” said youth minister Andrea Wheeler. “Jesus saved us and continues to give us hope and light in the darkness.”