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For many in Hispanic community, Good Friday holds special significance

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STANLEY B. MILAM
April 7, 2012
— As 300 Whitewater worshipers followed the Way of the Cross on Good Friday, a modern adaptation of Christ’s final journey could be heard in the reader’s description of the second Station of the Cross: Jesus is made to carry the cross.

“Let us think of those people who have been burdened with a heavy and unjust cross,” the reader said.


For Jorge Islas Martinez, a local leader in the Whitewater Hispanic community, The Way of the Cross symbolizes the suffering experienced not only by Christ but also by immigrants, many of whom joined the procession.


“This is a very sad time for many immigrants,” Islas said. “As they follow the procession, they are thinking of Christ’s burden but also of the burden our immigrants, many of whom face deportation and have been separated from their families.”


The staging of what is also know as the Stations of the Cross was supported by St. Patrick’s Church in Whitewater. The church recognizes not only the holiness of the day, but the relationship with immigrants as well, said the Rev. Tom Perrin, pastor at St. Patrick’s.


“The Hispanic community is especially moved by this day,” Perrin said. “It’s also important for the English-speaking community to understand why we have such a large Hispanic involvement and what it means to that community.”


For many immigrants, the Way of the Cross is an opportunity to observe the culture of their homeland, Islas said.


“This is how Easter is observed where we come from in Mexico and Central America,” he said. “This is tradition.


“As we would like our Anglo friends to understand our traditions, we are also trying to understand their traditions,” he said. “For example, the bunny and the eggs are new to us, but we need to understand that it’s an important part of American tradition.”


For Luis Ramirez, the religious procession brought to mind his homeland and his culture. Ramirez immigrated 23 years ago from Zamora Michoacan, Mexico, to the United States.


“My wife, Isperanza, and I are here because this is a traditional event for us,” Ramirez said. “It’s good to see a large group today. This event here in Whitewater is growing each year.”


Ramirez said his thoughts turned to those who suffer as he walked along with the procession.


“We see more and more suffering for today’s immigrants,” he said. “We see parents deported while their children stay here, and we see children deported while their parents stay here. Either way, there’s suffering.”


Islas played the role of one of the thieves crucified with Christ. He was exhausted and sore following the four-block procession carrying a 20-pound log from the Whitewater Middle School to St. Patrick’s Church.


“This is an emotional event for all of us,” he said. “You can feel the sadness and weariness.


“We do this, of course, to honor Christ’s sacrifices for us, but we also use this as an occasion to pray for those in need today. We pray for the immigrants, we pray for those who are suffering, we pray for justice, and we pray for our leaders to be fair and considerate.”


For Luis Santiago of Whitewater, the Way of the Cross is an opportunity to commit to Christ’s example.


“He sacrificed his life for us,” said Santiago, who attended the procession with his wife, daughter and son. “We are here today to ask what we can do to make a better life for others.”


Diversity was evident in the procession. Bruce Kinateder and his step-daughter Talia Olson observed from Kinateder’s front yard.


“I’m Catholic, and this is the most important religious event on our calendar,” he said. “The Way of the Cross reminds us to try to live Christ’s example every day.”


For Olson, 13, the procession was her first.


“I’m very impressed and humbled,” she said. “I’m amazed at how much effort went into it.”


Event coordinator Marco Wence said volunteers spent about six weeks preparing.


“For example, the uniform I am wearing would cost about $2,500 to buy,” said Wence, who played the role of the Army captain. “We made the uniforms and saved money, but that took a lot of effort and time.”


The event culminated with the crucifixion staged inside St. Patrick’s Church. The realism portrayed while observing the Twelfth Station—Jesus dies upon the cross—was met with solemn faces and tears from those who had followed the 90-minute procession.


“We observe this day for many reasons,” Islas said. “We grieve for Christ who died on the cross for us, we honor our homeland and it’s traditions, and we pray for the end of suffering and pain among our immigrant families.”



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