ST. JOHN — Dan and Irene Dunski, of Chicago Ridge, love everything about Holy Week and decided that this year, they’d celebrate Good Friday at the Shrine of Christ’s Passion.
As she waited in line with her husband for Stations of the Cross to start, Irene commented on how happy she was “to see so many young people (at the shrine). With all that’s going on in the world we need prayers.”
They’d only just arrived Friday afternoon, but were already making plans to come back.
“We’ll be back this summer,” her husband said.
The Shrine of Christ’s Passion welcomes anywhere from 8,000 to 10,000 people a year for Stations of the Cross on Good Friday, said Paul Anderson, shrine general manager. Some of its popularity is due to the Rev. Francis “Rocky” Hoffman, a radio host who leads Stations of the Cross at the shrine each year.
“Father Rocky says this is the place to be on Good Friday,” Anderson said, and people listen. They come by bus, from as far away as Kentucky and Ohio to attend.
The shrine contains an interactive winding pathway which visitors follow; they can do so on their own even during Good Friday. Following along with the Stations of the Cross procession is optional. Forty life-size bronze statues line the pathway and tell the story of Jesus’ last days on Earth, ending with his crucifixion on Mount Calvary, burial and resurrection.
Stations of the Cross actually began during early Christian pilgrimages to Jerusalem. Depictions of Christ’s last days were built along what was considered the actual road to Mount Calvary. During the 15th and 16th century Franciscan friars began to build similar shrines in Europe. The number of stations varied between seven and 20 and were usually built indoors. Some outdoor stations, such as Sacro Monte di Belmonte, or Sacred Mountain of Belmonte, in northern Italy became tourist attractions.
Friday afternoon, Hoffman had global issues on his mind. Before beginning the prayers and the walk, Hoffman asked attendees to remember Christians under persecution in other parts of the world. “Let’s remember and (pray in) solidarity with our brothers and sisters (under persecution) around the world,” he said.