EAST CHICAGO | Overhead, the sea gulls cried out as they circled through the blue, sunny skies.
On the streets below, Jesus dragged the 100-pound wooden cross surrounded by hundreds of people, including Roman soldiers and grieving followers.
Blood dripped from the crown of thorns thrust on his brow as three times he fell to his knees under the weight of his burden. At the end of the journey, crucifixion and death waited.
For the 31st year, the congregation of Our Lady of Guadalupe re-enacted the nearly 2,000-year-old scene of Jesus Christ’s Passion on Good Friday along the streets of Indiana Harbor.
Whole families participated, playing various parts or working behind the scenes on costumes and props.
Via Crucis, the Way of the Cross, began with a worship service inside the church with nearly 1,000 people in attendance. The trial of Jesus before Pontius Pilate was held there prior to the procession.
Starting from Our Lady of Guadalupe at 3510 Deodar St., the procession wove its way down to 135th Street to Grand Boulevard and then down 140th Street, back to Our Lady of Guadalupe, where the Crucifixion and death of Christ were presented.
The Passion ended, as it did 2,000 years ago, with the words "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
This year those words were uttered from the cross by the man portraying Jesus, Dimas Corral, of East Chicago.
This is Corral’s first year picking up the cross as Jesus Christ, and it took a full year of preparation to play this role, he said.
“My preparation was real hard. I worked very hard to study my lines and to listen to the director. I did it with all my heart,” Corral said of the physical, emotional and spiritual journey he’s taken since last spring.
The man who portrays Jesus must “be of good moral character and standing in the church to be worthy,” said Richard Garza, director of Via Crucis for the past three years.
It is very much a labor of love, said Juan Guadarrama, who portrayed Jesus for two years and provides invaluable assistance in organizing the event, Garza said.
“We began on Palm Sunday (with re-enactments). Yesterday (Thursday) we did the Last Supper, the betrayal of Jesus by Judas, the Agony in the Garden and Peter denying him three times,” Guadarrama said.
Corral said he had “the most beautiful feeling” about portraying Jesus Christ. “I feel very happy, very proud of my church,” he said.
Via Crucis is an important part of church and community life, Garza said.
“People put their hearts, time and treasures into this as a form of evangelizing,” he said. “There may be one person on the street who sees this and their whole life will be changed.”