Participants in Pilsen’s Via Crucis procession take a group photo inside Providence of God Catholic Church on Friday, April 19, 2019. (Photo: Max Herman)

Pilsen’s Via Crucis: Tradition Amid Change

This annual reenactment of Jesus’s last days, involving all the neighborhood’s Catholic churches, is one of Chicago’s largest

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.

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David Orozco, right, assists a friend with his costume in preparation for Via Crucis in Pilsen at Providence of God Catholic Church on Friday, April 19, 2019. (Photo: Max Herman)
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Participants re-enact Good Friday in the basement of Providence of God Catholic Church as part of the Via Crucis procession in Pilsen on Friday, April 19, 2019. (Photo: Max Herman)
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Participants in the Via Crucis procession watch the re-enactment of the Last Supper at Providence Church of God in Pilsen on Friday, April 19, 2019. (Photo: Max Herman)
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Participants in the Via Crucis procession approach Harrison Park on 18th Street in Pilsen on Friday, April 19, 2019. (Photo: Max Herman)
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People gather in Harrison Park awaiting the re-enactment of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion as part of the Via Crucis procession on Friday, April 19, 2019. (Photo: Max Herman)
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Participants in the Via Crucis procession enter Harrison Park on 18th Street in Pilsen on Friday, April 19, 2019. (Photo: Max Herman)
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Crosses and crucifixes are sold across from Harrison Park during Via Crucis in Pilsen on Friday, April 19, 2019. (Photo: Max Herman)
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This story was produced by City Bureau, a civic journalism lab based in Woodlawn. Learn more and get involved at citybureau.org

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