Every year, on Good Friday—the Friday before Easter—crowds of hundreds gather on 18th Street in Pilsen to watch the Via Crucis procession, a live reenactment of the fourteen stations of the cross and crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Altogether, the production is a solid ten hours of action for the eleven organizers and more than seventy actors. The reenactment begins with actor parishioners gathered on a stage to play out the Last Supper in the basement of Providence of God. Jesus is “crucified” at Harrison Park, where he and two thieves are rigged up to tall wooden crosses in front of a crowd gathered as far back as the basketball courts. The procession finishes inside at St. Adalbert, a nearly one hundred-year-old church that is slated for closing, where Mass is given to end the event.
The actual procession represents just a fraction of the time and energy that goes into the entire production. A union of parishioners affiliated with the various Catholic churches in Pilsen begin hosting monthly meetings to outline the next Via Crucis almost as soon as the last Via Crucis has passed. Rehearsals for the actors begin a full month before the big event.
Although the Archdiocese has scaled back its presence in the neighborhood, the size and tenor of the Via Crucis is a testament to the vibrant Catholic community that remains in Pilsen.
This story was produced by City Bureau, a civic journalism lab based in Woodlawn. Learn more and get involved at citybureau.org