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Good Friday tradition returns to Valpo

Jesus is whipped by Roman Centurians as part ViCrucis or Way Cross. The GloriDei Lutheran Hispanic MissiValparaiso University conducted 1.5-mile

Jesus is whipped by Roman Centurians as part of Via Crucis, or Way of the Cross. The Gloria Dei Lutheran Hispanic Mission and Valparaiso University conducted a 1.5-mile walk through Valparaiso on Friday, April 18, 2014 retracing Jesus' walk to Calvary to be put to death. | Michael Gard/For Sun-Times Media ORG XMIT: CST1404182008515939

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Updated: May 20, 2014 6:03AM



VALPARAISO — It’s been two years since Jesus last walked through downtown, carrying his cross to the crucifixion site at Valparaiso University.

It still draws people to their front porches as the procession passes, and most people had their smartphones out to record the event.

The Via Crucis — the Way of the Cross — is common in Latin American countries.

In Valparaiso, it’s happened every Good Friday since 2007, except for 2013 because of predicted cold weather.

“This isn’t something you usually expect to see,” said Alli Meyer, a senior at Valparaiso University, who was working at the Chapel of the Resurrection, where the crucifixion took place.

Actors take the parts of those involved in the Passion of Christ, including Jesus, Mary, Roman soldiers and village women, and they travel a path to where the actor playing Jesus and the actors portraying the two thieves crucified with him are put on crosses.

Yes, they actually get hoisted up on crosses, although they stand on footrests nailed to the crosses and hold themselves.

“It’s like a real representation, and it’s not ruined by Hollywood,” Meyer said. “It kind of puts a picture to it.”

The procession started after 4 p.m. at Heritage Lutheran Church, 308 Washington St., and snaked through the city and the area south of Lincolnway.

Gloria Dei Lutheran Hispanic Mission — the Hispanic mission of Valparaiso’s Immanuel Lutheran Church — Heritage Lutheran and Valparaiso University put the event together.

The costumed actors speak mostly Spanish, although the pastors who lead the procession read from the Bible and give commentary in both Spanish and English.

The dual languages mirror the diverse crowd, and a mariachi-style band of guitars and brass horns accompanies the walk.

Although it’s not as involved as some Hispanic Via Crucis processions, those involved are more into it and their faith, said Mari Escot of Valparaiso, who grew up in Mexico.

Escot now plays a village woman, but she found it exciting to be the first Mary in 2007.

Fidel, Eva and daughter Vanessa Reyes of Romeoville attend the event every year, partly because of family among the actors but also because they want Vanessa to know their Mexican traditions.

Vanessa, 16, said she’ll likely bring her own kids in the future.

Matthew Huber, the 19-year-old who played Jesus, said he was very glad he did, although his back was sore from carrying the cross.

Whether he’ll do it next year, “I’ll have to think about that, but if they need me, I’ll do it,” he said.

Not everyone was enthusiastic about the procession, though.

Nick Donlin, who identified himself as an atheist, used his phone to record the event when it passed him on Lincolnway, but he felt it was shocking to see and over-the-top in a way that took away meaning.

Brittany Gonzales, who was with him and agreed, said, “It was interesting.”



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