By Riley Manning/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – St. James Catholic Church observed Good Friday with a unique service that allowed viewers to become part of the scene of Christ’s journey to the cross.
The stations of the cross, according to St. James priest Father Lincoln Dall, is a prominent service in Latin America. He said many different versions of the service exist which interpret the Passion through the lens of other Biblical characters, like Mary, or through different members of society, such as a prisoner.
Hispanic Minister Elquin Gonzalez said this year the service told the story of Jesus as an immigrant.
“Joseph and Mary fled with Jesus to Egypt because Herod was looking for him. They didn’t know the language or the food in Egypt. They came to Egypt the same way immigrants come to this country: To survive,” he said. “They embodied people who leave home in search of the land of milk and honey, of a world without borders.”
St. James priest Father Lincoln Dall said the program strayed from tradition, but he hoped it would present the Easter story in a way that people could relate to Christ through their own lives.
In the program, St. James members took the roles of soldiers, disciples, and Biblical characters, and led the crowd to 14 points around the St. James campus. At each point a different moment in Christ’s journey was related and acted out.
The stations alternated between Spanish and English, telling the story of Christ as a migrant. One station represented Jesus’ 40 days of temptation in the desert, similar to how immigrants run the danger of forgetting their cultural values in pursuit of money and power.
At Jesus’ condemnation at the hands of Pilate, when the crowd chose to release the prisoner Barabas instead of Jesus, audience members saw a corrupt power system unable to understand the basic needs of the people. The exclusion of a person from a dignified life is repeated in the very language of migrant laws, which dehumanize people with terms like “illegal,” “aliens” and “criminals.”
Lee Ozwalt, a St. James member who helped narrate the English portion of the service, said it was her second year to participate.
“You really get a sense of community with everyone moving together,” she said. “Even if you don’t know Spanish, you know the story. It’s very profound to actually see.”
That story, Gonzales said, was not about remembering history.
“Christians know what happened. On the cross, Jesus connected to humanity, and the service is a time to reflect on that passion which lives in humanity now,” he said.