The parish youth group at St. Clare’s, Rosedale, performed a live dramatization of the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday at the church.
The 20 youth group members are mostly high school students who are parishioners at St. Clare’s, with a few performers being students at the parish’s elementary school.
Father Andy Struzzieri, pastor, revived the tradition at St. Clare’s. He was part of Living Stations at his two previous parishes: St. Matthew’s, Crown Heights, and Our Lady of Refuge, Flatbush.
When he became pastor at St. Clare’s in June, 2012, he said he looked through old photos and saw that the parish had performed Living Stations every Good Friday. He said doing a live performance gets the congregation in the Easter spirit for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
“Especially on Good Friday, it’s a living meditation of the suffering, the Passion and the death of Jesus,” Father Struzzieri said. “Seeing young people whom the parishioners know taking these roles will help the whole experience of the Passion and death of Jesus become more real.”
The performance began with a packed church singing “Were You There?” Father Struzzieri and his co-director, Peter Damour, served as the narrators for each of the stations.
“I love the opportunity that I got to work with him (Father Struzzieri),” said Damour, 15, a ninth-grade student at Professional Performing Arts School, Manhattan, who also played Pontius Pilate during the first station. “I think we really inspired people and brought people closer to their faith.”
The congregation followed along with St. Alphonsus Liguori’s “The Way of the Cross.” Each station involved Father Struzzieri or Damour reading a prayerful reflection and then the performers acting out the scene. After each station, the performers – dressed in colorful costumes designed by parish youth leader Lelosa Imasuen – circled the altar as the audience sang the reflection hymn.
For Stations 11 and 12 – Jesus is nailed to the cross and Jesus dies on the cross – the performers used dialogue to act out the crucifixion scene. Christian Adam, a ninth-grade student at Newtown H.S., Elmhurst, portrayed Jesus and commented on the visual aspects of the performance.
“Most people would hear it and just think it was a story, but to see it actually coming true, I think it’s an experience that they can’t miss,” said Adam, 15.
After Jesus had been put in the tomb, Father Struzzieri instructed the audience to process out in silence to commemorate the solemn nature of the performance.
For the past month, the youth group members practiced once per week for about two hours in order to prepare. One week before the live performance, the students watched Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ together as part of their preparation in getting themselves into character.
“I feel more connected, and I feel like they’re (fellow performers) more connected especially after seeing The Passion of the Christ and reenacting it,” said Mariq’a Massie, 16, an 11th-grade student at Professional Performing Arts who played Mary.
Father Struzzieri and members of the congregation were pleased with the performance and are already looking forward to Holy Week next year.
“It was very successful, and we’re very proud of them,” said Hillary Michael, the adult leader of the youth group. “I think it’s something that we will have continuously.”