St. John Neumann Catholic Church is reaching across cultural boundaries with a multiethnic retelling of the journey to the cross.
On Good Friday, March 29, about 40 church members representing a handful of nationalities will take part in the church’s fourth annual “Living Stations of the Cross” event. The program begins at 7 p.m. and takes place outside of the church, 8451 Idlewild Road in Charlotte, near Matthews and Mint Hill. The event is free and open to the public.
Living Stations of the Cross tells the story of the events leading up to the crucifixion in the same vein as the popular film, “The Passion of the Christ,” event organizer Irene Kilzer said. The entire program takes place outside and features 14 stations telling a different part of the story, beginning with Pontius Pilate’s decision to authorize the death of Jesus and concluding with the crucifixion.
“It’s basically the same story as ‘The Passion,’ and so many people are intrigued by it,” Kilzer said.
Visitors will follow Jesus, played by the church’s pastor Rev. Father Pat Hoare, across the different stations as four traveling narrators provide spoken prose. Church members of all ages will play the roles of Biblical characters like the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene, Simon – the man who helped Jesus carry the cross – soldiers, townspeople and more.
But the most unique aspect of the event, Kilzer said, is that the story is told in four different languages – Spanish, Portuguese, Vietnamese and English. Because the church offers programs and services in these languages, event organizers chose to incorporate them into the event. Each of the four narrators is assigned one of the four languages and take turns telling the story in their language.
“We divide up (the stations) between the different languages,” Kilzer said. “For example, stations five, 10 and 14 might be (told in) Vietnamese.”
Booklets are printed with the entire story written in the four languages and visitors receive a booklet in their native tongue so they can follow along with the story when it’s being told in a foreign language. Hoare is the only cast member with a speaking part, other than the four narrators, and speaks all of his lines in English.
Kilzer said the cast hosts about five rehearsals during the month leading up to the event. Actors of all ages and nationalities are cast in the show, which Kilzer said gives the church an opportunity to involve its entire congregation.
“All the roles are acted out within (the church’s) different communities,” she said. “This is the one time of year that, for sure, all our different nationalities get together” for a major special event.
Since it began in 2010, Living Stations of the Cross has become an increasingly popular event, seeing about 300 visitors attend the first year and about 500 turn out last year, Kilzer said.
“Everybody that has come … says it’s just touching, really touching,” she said. “We take the facts in the Bible (and are) creative in the way it comes together. It gets more and more popular every year.”