Last Updated: Tuesday - 01/04/2011
April 9, 2001
Way of the Cross still growing
From humble beginnings, inner city walk has become Good Friday institution
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON — Edmonton From humble beginnings in 1981, the Good Friday Way of the Cross has become a solid Edmonton tradition.
Each year the event attracts growing numbers of faithful to the inner city who in song and prayer re-enact Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection.
The Way of the Cross was started 20 years ago by a largely Catholic group led by the Social Justice Commission and the Franciscan Friars. The walk started in an effort to move prayer and worship from behind church walls to city streets.
About 150 people walked in 1981. The stops in the early years included downtown bank towers, City Hall and the Alberta Legislature as well as inner city locations.
Today the Way of the Cross is a solidly ecumenical event that attracts well over 1,000 people annually. For many Christians, the inner city is the place to be on Good Friday morning.
Over the years the event has also become rooted in the inner city with stops at inner city schools, houses, churches, agencies, liquor stores and the jail. Different groups take turns carrying a large wooden cross to lead the procession.
"The inner city Way of the Cross has taken on a life of its own," says Bob McKeon, a theology professor who helped organize the event for several years. "It makes sense for people to be in the streets of the inner city on Good Friday morning."
The walk symbolizes the commitment of the faith community to be present with the poor and to work for social change, McKeon said.
Linda Winski, a staff member of the Social Justice Commission, has been helping organize the event since 1984. She believes its biggest accomplishment is that "it has brought public attention to the fact that the Gospel values have something to say not only to our personal lives but to our collective lives as a society."
The walk, she said, "has brought public attention to the fact that there are issues of social justice in the midst of Edmonton that our faith speaks to, whether it's homelessness or hunger."
"The Gospel clearly says you need to house the homeless," Winski said. "Where there is hunger, you need to feed the hungry and work to eliminate hunger. Where there is injustice of any kind, the Gospel calls us to work for justice."
By highlighting justice issues, the Way of the Cross challenges Christians to live their faith in the public round, Winski said. "Faith isn't just a private thing; it's also very public."
She remembers walking in the cold and freezing rain as well as of seeing poverty at its worst. She remembers a stop in front of a burned-out house a few years ago.
"The scene pointed to the stark reality of the housing conditions in the inner city, of the places where people are forced to seek shelter in abandoned and dilapidated homes that are not safe," Winski lamented.
"I have memories of the children, of a station where the children did the reflections. That was very touching."
The Way of the Cross, she said, "has become an important vehicle for people to express their faith publicly and to participate in a public expression of faith."
The walk symbolizes "the basic awareness of the Christian community of the suffering Christ and that through his suffering he earned forgiveness of our sins," said John Lynch, another Social Justice Commission staff member.
The fact the walk takes place in the inner city should be a reminder of Christ's "preferential option for the poor," he said.
Lynch has participated in the walk for five years and has memories of inebriated people and poor housing conditions.
He still remembers a station of the cross a couple of years ago in front of a crumbling house. Mayor Bill Smith participated in that walk. As a result, the mayor and city council became more aware of the need for subsidized housing for the poor, Lynch said.
This year's Way of the Cross will start at 10 a.m. at the Boyle Street Community League, 9515-104 Ave.
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