The Rev. John Gee carries the cross through the inner city, aided by Anglican Bishop Jane Alexander (hidden), in the Outdoor Way of the Cross on Good Friday March 25.

WCR PHOTO | THANDIWE KONGUAVI

The Rev. John Gee carries the cross through the inner city, aided by Anglican Bishop Jane Alexander (hidden), in the Outdoor Way of the Cross on Good Friday March 25.

April 4, 2016
THANDIWE KONGUAVI
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER

Majed Mardini cut a striking figure walking the Outdoor Way of the Cross in Edmonton this Good Friday.

A Syrian refugee, walking the streets of the city's deep inner city, carrying the heavy cross of Jesus Christ: A trifecta of suffering.

"Unwilling to defend the innocent, Pilate condemns Jesus to death, beginning the savior's terrible journey towards Calvary," said Mardini, reflecting on a passage from the Gospel of Luke with Father Glenn McDonald, chaplain at St. Joseph's College of the U of A.

Sponsored by the college and St. Thomas More Parish, the Syrian newcomer arrived in Canada last December, after fleeing Syria and spending many years in Lebanon.

Mardini found hope in the good news that Jesus too knows the anguish, loss, despair and suffering of the displaced people of the world:

"Lord Jesus, as we recall your first steps towards Calvary, you remind us that you accompany the innocent who have been forced to flee their homes," Mardini prayed.

Majed Mardini (right) a recently arrived Syrian, carries the cross, aided by Fr. Glenn Mcdonald in the Outdoor Way of the in Edmonton's inner city March 25.

WCR PHOTO | THANDIWE KONGUAVI

Majed Mardini (right) a recently arrived Syrian, carries the cross, aided by Fr. Glenn Mcdonald in the Outdoor Way of the in Edmonton's inner city March 25.

The theme of the city's 36th annual Good Friday Outdoor Way of the Cross was Transformation: Our Selves and Our World, based on the scripture from Luke 4: "The spirit is upon us to proclaim good news."

At each station, Scripture was read, prayer offered and participants joined in song. After presenting a pain, presenters proclaimed hope and posed a challenge for participants to be active agents of God's justice in the world.

The procession started at George Spady Centre and stopped at five more locations before ending at Hope Mission.

The goal proclaimed at the first station was to promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, decent work and economic security for all.

For Dana Rombough, 14, experiencing the Way of the Cross on the streets brought home the stark inequality of life for the city's poor more than the experience would have inside a church.

"I believe in the equality of the rich and the poor, that it should be equaled out more," said Rombough. "How (the presenters) talk about it and explain what they're doing, I love this walk."

Denise Davis Taylor has attended the Good Friday Outdoor Way of the Cross for 15 years. This year, she was accompanied by members of the youth group she leads from St. Paul's United Church.

The ecumenical prayer event helps young people understand how significant the Easter story is in our lives and in our world today, she said.

MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE

"It seems to be consistently a positive experience, a memorable experience for them in a way that going to church on a Sunday morning wouldn't be," said Davis Taylor.

Through the reflections, walking, seeing other people who are committed to the same things and learning about all of these places in the inner city they have not been to before, they are learning about what life is like for other people in our own city, she said.

Other themes explored at the various stations included:

Gender equality, presented by MLA Annie McKitrick at Mary Burlie Park.

Ending poverty, led by Anglican Bishop Jane Alexander and the Rev. John Gee at the Bissell Centre.

Ending hunger and achieving food security at Mustard Seed, led by Chaplain Garret Parsons and Jerry Herman.

Safe communities and ecological action, led by Marlene Orr, Lloyd Cardinal and students of Archbishop O'Leary School at an affordable housing centre for chronically homeless indigenous people.

Efforts are made at Ambrose Place to heal the trauma chronically homeless indigenous people experience, said Orr, starting with providing a connection to the earth.

PROTECT MOTHER EARTH

"Lord, we ask for forgiveness for neglecting to protect Mother Earth from human greed," prayed Cardinal. "Creator of us all, we call on all of Christian faith to recognize the fragility of the Earth and the role our greed plays in exploiting her."

More than 500 people participated in this year's Outdoor Way of the Cross.