East Palo Alto living Stations of the Cross draws hundreds

For more than a decade, St. Francis of Assisi Parish has brought Christ’s last day to life in a dramatic reenactment of the Passion

Stewart Hyland played the role of Jesus in the live Stations of the Cross at St. Francis of Assisi in East Palo Alto April 19. The annual event draws hundreds to watch a dramatic rendition of Good Friday. (Photo by Nicholas Wolfram Smith/Catholic San Francisco)

For more than a decade, St. Francis of Assisi Parish in East Palo Alto has brought Christ’s last day to life in a dramatic reenactment of the Passion narrative with a living Stations of the Cross through the city’s streets.

Several hundred people gathered April 19 at Jack Farrell Park in East Palo Alto, the afternoon of Good Friday, where the basketball court became the scene of Christ’s interrogation by Pilate and Herod. Two Roman guards, pushing forward Jesus, entered the court, with a crowd trailing behind shouting “Crucificarlo! Crucificarlo!” (Crucify him, crucify him!).

After reenacting half the stations in the park, the crowd moved in a procession on a half mile route down Bay Road to St. Francis of Assisi, led by the soldiers and Christ carrying his crucifix. The stations were resumed at the parish, with Christ and the two thieves lifted up on tall crosses in front of the silent crowd. After Christ was carried away, the parish held its Spanish language Good Friday liturgy.

Held in both English and Spanish, the stations are a major production for the parish. More than 40 people are in the cast, which begins rehearsing at the start of Lent, and more help with costuming and building the crosses.

Dramatic reenactments of Good Friday have deep roots in Hispanic culture.

When St. Francis of Assisi first began its living stations, it helped to highlight the strength and presence of the majority Latino community, but the production has also been intentionally multicultural, bringing together in one devotion the parish’s different ethnic groups.

At the time the stations started, the city was plagued by violence and the parish saw it as an opportunity not only to make “a very public sign of faith” but also “bring the whole community to reflection,” said Jose Capistrano, who played Pilate and a Roman centurion. The role of Jesus, for example, regularly rotates between a member of the parish’s African-American, Latino and Tongan communities.

Capistrano said this year had brought the biggest crowd he had seen since the parish began doing live stations. 

“We’ve been doing it the past 15 years and God willing it will continue to do good,” he said.

Full story at Catholic San Francisco.

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