Taking up his cross, again

Taking up his cross, again

livingstations-webDavid Verna portrays Jesus in the 2011 Living Stations of the Cross at the ballfield of Christ the Redeemer Parish, Assumption Church, Atco. This year’s production, the 30th performance of the annual event, will take place on Good Friday, April 6, at 8 p.m.

Photo by Alan M. Dumoff

In his annual portrayal of Jesus, David Verna has fallen with his cross almost 100 times and been crucified nearly 30. With the weather unpredictable at this time of year, Verna has had to endure freezing cold, rain and even snow over the past three decades. He begins the evening on a live donkey and ends it on a cross.

On Good Friday, April 6, he will do it again, happily. That’s when the Living Stations of the Cross will be staged for the 30th time on a ballfield near Assumption Church in Atco, at Christ the Redeemer Parish.

Begun in 1983, conceived by then-parish pastor, Msgr. Patrick Chiarilli, the outdoor production has “really come a long way” since its beginnings, says Bob Iuliucci, who first joined the production in 1997, playing the part of Simon of Cyrene. For the past 10 years, he has been director of an evening that includes 40 cast members and almost 60 other crew members in charge of such production aspects as sound, lighting, and construction.

In the beginning, there was Msgr. Chiarilli; Deacon Charles “Chick” McAleer, who was the first director; and Verna, the first and only Jesus Christ in the living stations. Working from a one-page script (that has now grown to 21 pages, and includes narrator, cast, and crew direction), the trio led the first Living Stations, which included “a couple of handheld lights, and pieces of wood,” remembers Deacon McAleer

Today, two giant trailers hold the more than 20 painted, wooden flats, which are used for 10 Stations scenes. Improved lighting, and a state-of-the-art-sound system, have also added to the experience for worshippers, who number in the hundreds every year and come from far and wide.

Starting at 7 a.m. on Good Friday, crew members work all day to transform the ballfield into Jerusalem, for the hour-long production which begins 13 hours later, at 8 p.m.

“The Living Stations allows the community to participate in the death and resurrection of Jesus,” says Deacon McAleer, who is still involved with the play as light director and “roadie,” assisting in whatever needs to be done to set up for the show.

“A great sense of community has gathered here over the last 30 years, on Good Friday,” says Father Thomas Barcellona, current parish pastor.

The 30th performance of the Living Stations of the Cross will take place at the ballfield of Christ the Redeemer Parish, Assumption Church, Atco, on Good Friday, April 6, at 8 p.m. For more information, call 867-767-0719.

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