A refurbished set of Stations of the Cross is inviting the faithful to ponder Jesus’ sacrifice for our salvation as they make their way around the grounds of Holy Spirit Parish in Palmyra.
The outdoor Stations aren’t displayed along a chronological path, however. Rather, they’ve been strategically positioned throughout the campus in ways that lend to a serene setting or complement a particular place.
The effort was a months-long process involving the parish volunteers, members of Knights of Columbus Council 10502, and Father Anthony Dill, pastor. Bishop Ronald Gainer blessed the individual Stations following an outdoor morning Mass at Holy Spirit on Sunday, October 23.
“We have wonderful people in our parish who look at the big picture of what can be done on our campus to integrate the faith,” Father Dill told The Catholic Witness.
When Covid prompted parishes to move the celebration of Mass to outdoor settings, Holy Spirit Parish leadership and volunteers joined together to build a pavilion that could be used not only for liturgies, but for meetings and fundraising activities, too. The 100-by-40-foot pavilion provides cover from the elements and another space for parishioners, and Father Dill wanted to ensure that it was a sacred space as well, so a parishioner constructed an outdoor altar and an enclosed portion of the pavilion became a sacristy.
Before long, there was discussion about hanging a Crucifix on the pavilion wall, and those ideas germinated into the idea to enhance the site with Stations of the Cross. The parish received a used set of Stations of the Cross from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and parish volunteers and Knights worked to receive, restore and install them.
“After a lot of discussion, we came up with the idea that if we wanted to have imagery everywhere, we would place the Stations throughout the campus. Palmyra is very pedestrian; people walk the town all the time, and we thought it would be a great idea to have the Stations at different places around the grounds,” Father Dill said.
The Fifth Station of Simon helping Jesus carry His cross is next to the church entrance, and the Sixth Station of Veronica wiping the face of Jesus is located at the Adoration Chapel, for example. Others are situated near benches where people can stop to reflect. Each Station includes a solar light, and there are plans to install placards that will play a recording of each scene.
Mike Serio, a parishioner and member of the Knights of Columbus, offered his time and talent to refurbish the Stations, which had seen years of dust and remnants of cleaning solution. Serio isn’t a tradesman in refurbishing, but he has a knack for it, and Father Dill gave him the go-ahead to work with the pieces.
Serio began with the Twelfth Station, Jesus dying on the cross.
“I felt honored to do this for the parish, and gifted that the Lord gave me the talent to do so,” Serio said.
He researched the history of the pieces, and while their entire past is still to be discovered, it appears the Stations were crafted by an Italian artist through an art studio in New York. Serio visited a local monument/memorial company to learn the proper methods to refinish them. Their concrete backs, obliterated by their removal from their former location, were filled out, sealed and squared off, and the plaster images cleaned, restored and painted.
Serio spent six to eight months on the project, and was assisted by fellow Knights in moving the Stations from place to place, securing them on mounts and installed throughout the parish grounds. The Twelfth Station, the sole piece painted in gold, was mounted on the sacristy wall of the pavilion. The rest, in bright white, stand out among the parish landscape.
“I feel honored that Father trusted me enough to allow me to do this for the parish, even though I’m not trained in it. I’m also fortunate that there were always Knights ready to help,” Serio said.
Father Dill echoed Serio’s sentiments about the volunteers.
“We are blessed with groups of different volunteers in our parish. One of the groups of volunteers is a group of retired guys who meet in an old garage that they converted into a shop in order to help improve the grounds,” Father Dill said. “Anytime there’s a new idea, we talk through it with these guys to see how we can make things happen. They used their combined experience and creativity to come up with solutions for these Stations, and Mike did an incredible amount of work in restoring them and using his creativity to give us a beautiful set of the Stations of the Cross.”
He expressed his hope that the outdoor Stations will provide a public witness to the community of faith at Holy Spirit Parish, and welcome to those who wish to learn more about the Catholic faith.
“I think people can get nervous sometimes to say that they’re Catholic when they’re outside the church walls, so I want the end result of this project to be that they feel more comfortable being part of our parish and witnessing to the faith,” he said. “My other hope for this project is one of reaching out to others. Palmyra is a pedestrian community, with folks walking everywhere. I hope the folks in our neighborhood who walk by and see these Stations get an understanding of who Christ is, and how we’re trying to bring Him to others as good neighbors in the community.”
(Photos by Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness.)
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness