Parishioner Hector Guillen portrays Christ carrying his Cross during Stations of the Cross April 19 outside St. Ann Church, Browns Mills. Hal Brown photos

Parishioner Hector Guillen portrays Christ carrying his Cross during Stations of the Cross April 19 outside St. Ann Church, Browns Mills. Hal Brown photos

By Jennifer Mauro | Managing Editor

Moans and wails drowned out passing traffic on Good Friday as parishioners portraying witnesses to Christ’s Crucifixion followed their “savior” as he carried his Cross to his Death.

“It really bores into your heart,” said Andrés Luna of St. Ann Parish, Browns Mills. “You see the people crying, and it makes you want to cry. But I’m playing a Roman soldier, so I can’t do that.”

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Stations of the Cross in Browns Mills

Luna was among some 200 faithful who came to witness or take part in the annual live Stations of the Cross April 19 outside St. Ann Church. A tradition in the parish for 11 years, this marked the first time the production was bilingual. In years past, it was only in Spanish.

Traffic on the small, two-lane road in front of the church slowed to a crawl as Hector Guillen, portraying Jesus, carried the Cross along the sidewalk, through the parking lot and to the Crucifixion scene in the woods behind the rectory.

The crack of the Roman soldiers’ whip hitting the ground intermingled with the sobs of parishioners playing the weeping women present at Jesus’ Death. Accompanying each Station of the Cross were Readings and reflections broadcast on a speaker in both Spanish and English by Divine Word Father Krzysztof Pipa, parish administrator, and parishioner Joe Tierney, respectively.

“We like to do it outside because it’s more natural,” Liliam Perez, who has been portraying Mary since the play’s beginning, said of the live production. “I like to make people part of the play – I walk through the crowd; I touch them so they can feel what I feel.”

This was the first year local resident Paul Caceres witnessed the Living Stations at the parish. He heard about the play through friends and the community.

“This is an inspiration not only to the parish, but to people in different religions,” he said. “You come see this … visually, it’s quite a scene.”

Luna said the public display of faith is an effective way to evangelize. “Some of these people may not come to Church, but maybe we touched their hearts today and they may come one day. That’s the goal – to bring new people into our Church.”

Speaking on why he takes part in the play every year, he said, “It’s important for me because sometimes we get too comfortable [in our lives] and forget that Jesus Christ died for us. This is our way to remember that he’s still alive for us.”

Perez agreed. “We want people to feel like this is part of their story, too. This is our story, this is part of our life and this is something we have to live [in order] to … be better people.”