By Tony DeGol
Just minutes before his debut in the all-important role of Jesus, young Stephen Sanders – with bright eyes, great enthusiasm, and maybe even a few nerves – was completely honest about his wish for the evening.
“I hope I do good tonight,” stated the Divine Mercy Catholic Academy seventh grader. “I feel pretty honored to play Jesus. It’s been hard sometimes, but it managed to all come together, and I hope it’s going to be really good.”
Sanders was among the youth involved in a version of living Stations of the Cross at Saint Clement Parish in Johnstown on the first Friday of Lent.
Called Shadow Stations, it featured youngsters portraying the familiar individuals in the usual Stations of the Cross. Unlike traditional living Stations, the children were positioned behind a screen in the dark church with a spotlight on them. The congregation saw a motionless shadow of each figure while adults read each Station and a reflection. Solemn music between each Station added to the moving and prayerful hour.
According to organizers, the shadow technique offers a unique perspective.
“We had a parishioner last year comment that by using the shadows, you don’t see Johnny or Susie portraying Jesus or Mary, you can actually see yourself being right here in the final steps of Christ,” noted Mary Casto, the Shadow Stations coordinator at the parish.
During this Lenten season, when all of us are called to pray and immerse ourselves in the Way of the Cross, this activity is important for the youth.
“It’s a good way for them to be involved and to understand more about the suffering and death of Jesus,” said Father William Rosenbaum, Pastor of Saint Clement.
Jackson Catanese, who played Simon, could not agree more.
“I help Jesus carry the Cross,” reminded the Divine Mercy Catholic Academy third grader. “This is very special to me because I love Stations of the Cross, and Jesus died for us. I want to show respect to Him.”
Added Sanders: “I find Lent a very spiritual time. It’s not just about fasting, but it’s more about coming closer to God.”
Father Rosenbaum lauded the adults who prepared the students and assisted during the Stations, and he was grateful for the many parishioners in the pews. The faithful, he said, should feel good that our young people are engaged in a very prayerful and solemn way.
Judging by their post-Stations reaction, they were, indeed, impressed.
“I’ve seen this several times now and it’s more touching and amazing each time,” said parishioner Linda Rigo.
“They did such an amazing job,” added parishioner Susan Stem. “The whole team – it was just very moving. I could attend this every week during Lent.”
The children and their adult helpers will present Shadow Stations once again at Saint Clement on Good Friday at 7:30 p.m. All are welcome.
Editor’s Note: See more of Shadow Stations at Saint Clement Parish on the March 8 edition of Proclaim! TV at 10:30 a.m. on WATM ABC 23.
[Photos: Students dressed in costumes pose following Shadow Stations at Saint Clement Parish (top); An image of the 11th Station — Jesus is Nailed to the Cross — during Shadow Stations.]