Stations of the Cross, a spiritual journey, is observed in variety of ways in the Miami Valley

The way of the Cross wooden sculptures line pathway around the Lange Estate on Calumet Road in West Milton. The estate has been transformed into the Transfiguration Center for Spiritual Renewal. The stations on the site were hand carved by local woodcarver, John Bookwalter. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

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The way of the Cross wooden sculptures line pathway around the Lange Estate on Calumet Road in West Milton. The estate has been transformed into the Transfiguration Center for Spiritual Renewal. The stations on the site were hand carved by local woodcarver, John Bookwalter. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

In a variety of ways throughout the Miami Valley, the Stations of the Cross are imbued with meaning at this time of year. Traditions range from a Good Friday Walk for Justice and Peace in downtown Dayton to a costumed reenactment of the Stations by young church members.

For Christians, walking the Way of the Cross can be an unforgettable spiritual journey. As they stop to pray at each of the 14 Stations, the faithful are symbolically treading the path Jesus walked to Mount Calvary while reflecting on the suffering He endured.

The devotional prayers may be conducted personally or by an officiating celebrant who may move from station to station as congregants respond. The path begins when Jesus is condemned to death and concludes when he is placed in the tomb. In 1991 Pope St. John Paul II created a new scriptural version of the Stations.

Artistic depictions of the stations can be found on interior church walls as well as outside on the grounds and gardens. Catholics –as well as Episcopalians, Lutherans, Presbyterians and other Protestant churches – mark this significant season of the year by visiting the stations during Lent–between Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

Via Dolorosa

The origins of the practice of praying the Stations of the Cross are believed to be connected to early Christians retracing Jesus’ steps from the site of his condemnation by Pontius Pilate to the place of his death. That practice continues today on the path known as the Via Dolorosa (“The sorrowful road.”)

Angie and Willliam Platfoot of Tipp City are among those who have participated in the meaningful tradition in Jerusalem. Angie, who grew up near Minster, Ohio has early memories of praying the Stations with the Sisters at school on Fridays with her classmates.

“Everybody was farmers there so we did the stations on Sunday afternoon with our families,” she remembers. “Then, when our children were little we started doing them again.”

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Bill and Angie Platfoot walk on trails that circle the Lange Estate, which is home to the Transfiguration Center for Spiritual Renewal. The wooden structures, in the background, that line the paths are the way of the Cross that depicts the journey of Jesus to the place of his crucifixion. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Bill and Angie Platfoot walk on trails that circle the Lange Estate, which is home to the Transfiguration Center for Spiritual Renewal. The wooden structures, in the background, that line the paths are the way of the Cross that depicts the journey of Jesus to the place of his crucifixion.   JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Credit: JIM NOELKER

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Bill and Angie Platfoot walk on trails that circle the Lange Estate, which is home to the Transfiguration Center for Spiritual Renewal. The wooden structures, in the background, that line the paths are the way of the Cross that depicts the journey of Jesus to the place of his crucifixion. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Credit: JIM NOELKER

The couple has made two pilgrimages to Israel–one in 2017 and another in 2019. On one of them, nine brothers and sisters and three in-laws accompanied the couple.

The experience, says Bill Platfoot, was very moving. “You are following in the footsteps where Jesus walked and carrying a big wooden cross as you go from one station to the next,” he explains. " You pray the rosary, you’re meditating, it’s very spiritual. It’s one of the highlights of my life, an experience I never dreamed I’d have.”

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The Platfoots, who belong to West Milton Church of the Transfiguration, are fortunate to have access to stations both indoors and outdoors at their church as well as the Transfiguration Center for Spiritual Renewal in Ludlow Falls.

A beautiful outdoor walk

One of the loveliest places to walk the Stations is at the Transfiguration Center. Located on 173 acres of gently rolling land bordering the Stillwater River, the Center, endowed by Kathryn Lange as a retirement community for priests, is open to the public on weekdays and includes wooded trails, natural grasses, wildflowers, native birds and wildlife.

The Rev. John D. MacQuarrie, now pastor of St. Bernard parishes in Springfield, was serving in West Milton at the time the Center was created and says the stations were hand carved by local woodcarver, John Bookwalter.

“John had a wood shop in West Milton for a good number of years,” MacQuarrie remembers. “He was a very creative fellow and people loved his art. He grew up in Transfiguration Parish and we asked him to make new stations for outdoor prayer and meditation based on Pope John Paul’s more accurate scriptural references.”

Bookwalter was given a book to follow with simple pictures and Bible references. “According to our business manager and grounds keeper at the Lange Estate, John used different species of wood but mainly walnut, ash and oak. It took him about six to eight months; he finished in 2003. He died about six years later and I celebrated his funeral.”

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The Schoenstatt Shrine is on a pathway at the Lange Estate, which is home to the Transfiguration Center for Spiritual Renewal. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Credit: JIM NOELKER

The Schoenstatt Shrine is on a pathway at the Lange Estate, which is home to the Transfiguration Center for Spiritual Renewal. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Credit: JIM NOELKER

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The Schoenstatt Shrine is on a pathway at the Lange Estate, which is home to the Transfiguration Center for Spiritual Renewal. JIM NOELKER/STAFF

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Credit: JIM NOELKER

MacQuarrie adds that the sculptures were almost destroyed during the tornado and had to be moved to a new location outside of the woods.

Walking for social justice

For more than 30 years, a number of local faith organizations have collaborated to host a downtown Dayton Good Friday Walk for Justice and Peace in which the traditional devotional practice is paired with contemporary social justice issues.

“The idea is to bring attention to the suffering of many people in our world and how from a faith perspective we are called to be aware of their suffering and think of ways in which we might help to alleviate it,” explains Nick Cardilino, director for the Center for Social Concern at the University of Dayton. “People have used the Stations of the Cross as a way to compare the suffering of various people to the suffering of Christ.”

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A Walk for Justice and Peace is held annually on Good Friday in downtown Dayton. Participants stop at various locations for the traditional stations of the cross Jesus walked to bring awareness to social issues. FILE

A Walk for Justice and Peace is held annually on Good Friday in downtown Dayton. Participants stop at various locations for the traditional stations of the cross Jesus walked to bring awareness to social issues. FILE

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A Walk for Justice and Peace is held annually on Good Friday in downtown Dayton. Participants stop at various locations for the traditional stations of the cross Jesus walked to bring awareness to social issues. FILE

Examples? The first station, when Jesus is condemned to death, is recited in front of the Old Courthouse where the death penalty is referenced. In front of the YWCA, there is a focus on the lack of affordable child care tied to station number four where Jesus meets his mother.

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Participants gather annually in downtown Dayton for a Walk for Justice and Peace on Good Friday to bring awareness to social issues. FILE

Participants gather annually in downtown Dayton for a Walk for Justice and Peace on Good Friday to bring awareness to social issues. FILE

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Participants gather annually in downtown Dayton for a Walk for Justice and Peace on Good Friday to bring awareness to social issues. FILE

A similar annual walk is held at UD. “Like other Catholic churches around the world, UD’s Chapel of the Immaculate Conception features the 14 stations prominently displayed on its walls,” explains Scott Paeplow, associate director of Campus Ministry. “Campus Ministry has led gatherings every Friday afternoon throughout Lent to pray the Stations together as a faith community as we journey through this liturgical season towards the celebration of the High Holy days of the Church.”

In years past UD students, faculty and staff have also prayed the 14 stations through the lens of social justice and care for the marginalized through the annual observation of the Romero Stations of the Cross.

Praying at home

Stores that specialize in selling religious items offer a variety of products to enhance the devotional experience of praying the stations. Dayton Church Supply in downtown Dayton is a fourth-generation, family-owned business that carries products for both churches and home.

A wide variety of meditation booklets and pamphlets are available at the store, including those written especially for children.

“There are home-bound people who want to do the stations but can’t get to a church,” explains Karen Klepacz. “We have beads for meditation and prayer with the Stations on them, an olive wood crucifix with the stations and a new item for children with little windows that can be closed after they pray each station.”

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The store’s second floor has a wall of sample stations that can be special ordered. Materials range from fiber glass and mosaics to wood carvings and fabric.”

The store, located at 136 E 3rd St, is open from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays. Phone: 937- 223-2521.

Bringing the stations to life

One of the eagerly anticipated Lentin events at Emmanuel Catholic Church in Dayton is an annual dramatic reenactment by young church members incorporating narration, meditations, acting and song. Thirty children, dressed in tunics created by volunteer moms, participated this year.

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Youth at Emmanuel Catholic Church in Dayton participate in a Living Stations of the Cross. CONTRIBUTED

Youth at Emmanuel Catholic Church in Dayton participate in a Living Stations of the Cross. CONTRIBUTED

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Youth at Emmanuel Catholic Church in Dayton participate in a Living Stations of the Cross. CONTRIBUTED

Jenn Dahlstrom of Beavercreek, who directs the special evening, says it’s been performed for the past 20 years. She says other churches in the Miami Valley have heard about it and asked for the script.

Fourteen-year-old Matthew Greiner, who participated for the first time this year, played the coveted role of Jesus.

“Through my experience in the Living Stations of the Cross, I found that we can only understand a tiny bit of the pain Our Lord went through during His passion,” he says.

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Youth at Emmanuel Catholic Church in Dayton participate in a Living Stations of the Cross. CONTRIBUTED

Youth at Emmanuel Catholic Church in Dayton participate in a Living Stations of the Cross. CONTRIBUTED

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Youth at Emmanuel Catholic Church in Dayton participate in a Living Stations of the Cross. CONTRIBUTED


HOW TO GO:

What: The Good Friday Walk for Justice and Peace

When: Noon to 2 p.m. Friday, April 15

Where: Beginning at Courthouse Square with stops through downtown. The walk will end at First Baptist Church, 111 West Monument, where a free soup lunch will be served.

Parking: Free on city streets throughout downtown and at the Church.

For more info: 937-229-2576

HOW TO GO:

What: The Stations of the Cross created by West Milton woodcarver, John Bookwalter. The grounds also include gardens, a goldfish pond, a reflection pond and miles of walking trails near the scenic Ohio River.

Where: Transfiguration Center for Spiritual Renewal, 3505 Calumet Road, Ludlow Falls, Ohio

Open: The grounds are open from sunrise to sunset seven days a week.

For more information: www.transfigurationcenter.com or call 937-698-7180.

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