Good Friday sees hundreds gather for Stations of the Cross annual pilgrimage

ST. GEORGE — Hundreds of men, women and children of faith gathered in Sandtown Park to take part in the 11th annual “Stations of the Cross” procession. The event is generally held on “Good Friday” of the Christian Lenten season to commemorate the journey of Jesus Christ on the day of his crucifixion more than 2,000 years ago.

Hundreds gather for the Stations of the Cross event that began at Sandtown Park off of Bluff Street and ended at the St. George Catholic Church Friday, St. George, Utah, April 14, 2017 | Photo by Sheldon Demke, St. George News

The Way of the Cross, also called Via Dolorosa of The Stations of the Cross, is a devotion consisting of prayer and meditations on 14 occurrences experienced by Christ on his way to the crucifixion and burial. The origin of this devotion goes back to the custom of visiting the holy sites in Jerusalem, according to information from Catholic Online.

Christians of many denominations came together to follow in the footsteps of their Savior in a show of interfaith unity.

Stressing the resurrection as well as the suffering of Christ is important, Father Martin of the St. George Catholic Church said, and the journey helps to appreciate the joy of the resurrection in a deeper way, while growing closer to God in the process, he said.

“All of the churches come together today and pray as brothers and sisters, that’s the reason, and then after we go to our own churches and celebrate the passion of the resurrection,” Martin said.

The procession provides a symbolic pilgrimage for the vast majority of Christians who aren’t able to go to Jerusalem, and allows participants the opportunity to focus on several key events that took place on the last day of Christ’s life before crucifixion and resurrection.

The parishioners began the procession at the first station in Sandtown Park and headed southwest along Diagonal Street, where a series of 13 more stations were set up, showing scenes from Jesus’ last walk.

Hundreds gather for annual pilgrimage during the Stations of the Cross event that ended at the St. George Catholic Church Friday in St. George, Utah, April 14, 2017 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

Between each station, the participants sang “Were You There.” At each station the procession stopped and a different faith leader spoke about the events of that particular station, followed by a prayer, while the large wooden cross was carried by a different person between each point.

Two bicycle officers from the St. George Police Department escorted the crowd and controlled traffic to allow participants to move from one point to the next safely.

The Spirit of the Desert Church in Ivins was represented by Reverend Lee Montgomery, who said his fellowship has participated for more than 10 years or so, he said.

While the event is hosted by the Catholic Church, he said, people of all denominations come and celebrate Christ’s journey to the cross together.

“This is an opportunity to come together with people of other faith traditions and to share something that we all have in common; it’s the high point of the Easter season,” Montgomery said.

Alex Wilke, who moved to the area in 1961 and is now retired after spending 30 years as the pastor of the American Baptist Church, which is now the St. George Community Church, is the oldest pastor in St. George, he said.

Wilke has served in various ecclesiastic capacities in the community and has participated in the annual event since its inception, he said.

The annual pilgrimage allows believers to reflect on those events, beginning with the first station illustrating Christ’s journey to the Mount of Olives and continuing through the fourteenth, where His body was laid in the tomb. The procession ended at the St. George Catholic Church on 259 W. 200 North.

“It’s a time that the faith community needs to join hands, and to unite and be strong, and I’m just delighted to be here with other religious faith groups and support this cause, the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ,” Elder Kevin Ence with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said.

St. George News Videographer Sheldon Demke contributed to this report.

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Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.


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