Musicians accompanied the procession, adding to the prayer experience.
Musicians accompanied the procession, adding to the prayer experience.
Ivette Rivera didn’t mind the cloudy skies and chilled temperatures that hovered in the early hours of April 2. She actually found the less-than- comfortable conditions to be ideal for the occasion.

Rivera was among the nearly 300 faithful who gathered on Good Friday morning for the bilingual outdoor Stations of the Cross held on the campus of Immaculate Conception Church, Trenton.

PHOTO GALLERY: Outdoor Stations of the Cross

Even though it was very cold and windy, “Jesus sacrificed so much more on the Cross,” she said. And even though people continue to “fail and cause him to suffer more,” Rivera is reminded especially on Good Friday of how “Jesus gave his life for us, he gave us all of his love. That is why I am here today. He redeemed us by his holy Blood.”

While hosting the outdoor Stations of the Cross was a new event for Our Lady of the Angels Parish, Father Carlos Aguirre, pastor, said his parish community has participated in the Via Crucis procession each Good Friday. Via Crucis, which is Spanish for the Way of the Cross, was organized each Good Friday by Catholic Charities’ El Centro in collaboration with Sacred Heart Parish, during which scores of faithful participated in a procession through South Trenton streets while reenacting the Passion and Death of Jesus.

But since the start of the pandemic, Father Aguirre said, the Via Crucis has been canceled and “we haven’t been able to take our celebrations into the streets.

“So to reinforce our faith, and given that we’ve been walking our own Way of the Cross for more than a year now, it was a good thing to bring the community together as a parish family and take part in this holy Way of the Cross together,” he said.

For this year’s event, the parish clergy and faithful reflected on the first 13 Stations as they traveled the grounds of Immaculate Conception Church while singing and praying. The 14th Station and the closing of the service was held inside.

“I like it when the Stations are done live [because] it represents so much to us today, accompanying Jesus toward Calvary,” said Meri Figeroa Callejas of St. Joseph Parish, Toms River.

Pointing to the strategically placed 13 red-draped crosses around the perimeter of the church that represented the Stations, she said, “That for me is something inexplicable.

“It’s the example Jesus gave to us,” she said, noting that all people experience happy moments and difficult moments in their lives.

“That’s what makes me think that at some point, I’ll have to live my own Calvary,” Figeroa Callejas said, “but seeing how strong Jesus was, I know that he also made me strong for whatever it is that awaits me.”

Jose Cruz, a parishioner of Our Lady of the Angels, said he viewed the Good Friday event as a way to help faithful better understand the real meaning of the Cross.

“Sadly, many don’t get what it’s about,” he said, then added that he also regards Good Friday as a way to learn more about what it means to sacrifice.

“In order to get God’s love, we need to accept the sacrifice on the Cross,” he said.

Cruz and Father Aguirre shared thoughtful insights when asked to reflect on the person from the Stations of the Cross with whom they could most identify.

While Cruz admitted it would be the soldiers because of how they harried Jesus along his journey to Calvary, Father Aguirre cited several persons including the responses of the crowd as well as Simon of Cyrene and Veronica.

Referring to the people, he said, “Many times, we are the ones who yell and condemn Jesus and we nail him to the cross with our sins when we forget to love our neighbor, when we forget to serve with love, when we forget to forgive.”

Father Augirre said there are times he could relate to Simon of Cyrene because “it is the Church and us who are often that Simon who helps us carry the cross for the poor and needy.”

And of Veronica, who wiped the face of Jesus, he said, “We are also Veronica when we help clean our brothers and sisters’ faces who are sick or hurting.

“I think that in our lives, we can play different parts from the Way of the Cross as we walk with Jesus,” Father Aguirre said. “We often forget him and who he is. We believe that when good things happen in life, it’s thanks to us. But when bad things happen, it’s God’s fault. We see that a lot as we walk the Way of the Cross.”

Rivera echoed Father Aguirre when she described her participation in the Way of the Cross as being both humbling and an opportunity to offer thanks to God, especially since her son was cured from cancer.

“I don’t’ deserve that he [Jesus] died for me,” she said. “So, for us to take part in this road to Calvary helps us know how to grow so we can carry our own crosses daily and follow his example.”