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 | By Erika M. Hirschman

Cross Walk builds faith as participants follow in Jesus’ footsteps

Whether it was building an 8-foot wooden cross or carrying that cross during the third annual Good Friday Cross Walk event, participants and organizers say the event brought them closer to God. The event also helped them understand what Jesus went through during the Way of the Cross.

A group of 100 people of all ages and denominations gathered for the event, which was hosted by St. Gabriel Parish Youth Ministry and led by Father Marc Hopps.

“We had a fantastic turnout,” said Misty Michelle, youth minister at St. Gabriel Parish in Auburn. “We were so pleased with the outcome, and— as he always does— God showed up with some awesome weather. We had a lot of families absent due to the Easter holiday, but we had an absolutely great turnout. What a blessing.”

Nouvel Catholic Central High School and Junior High in Saginaw and St. Brigid of Kildare Catholic Church and School in Midland hosted the event in previous years. 

“We were pleasantly surprised by other denominations' participation and so happy we opened the event up to the public,” Misty said.

The event was established as a Lenten tradition through Chris and Krista Willertz, members of St. Brigid of Kildare Parish.

Misty commented the event is “an impactful and interactive experience of carrying a cross through the local community.” The Willertzes are great supporters and mentors, she added.

The Cross Walk began and ended at Bay City Western High School, where three wooden crosses were displayed. Ethan Heller, 18, of Bay City along with his grandpa, Barney Torzynski of Bay City worked together to build the crosses. In addition to the large crosses, Barney also built small crosses, while his wife Ann made the rosaries that were handed out. 

“A lot of families with kids of young ages attended, and we wanted the kids to be able to carry their own cross,” Misty said. “My dad [Barney] collected small branches and made the crosses for the kids to carry.”

“It was a real family event. My dad as always takes things to the next level,” Misty said of Barney.

Ethan said he was very happy and enjoyed working with his grandpa.

“We cut down cedar wood, stripped the excess bark and put [the cross] together with nails. We wanted it to be as genuine and as authentic as possible,” Ethan said.

The day of the Cross Walk, participants took turns carrying the 8-foot wooden cross.

“We were reminded of the unconditional love and humility Jesus displayed in taking up his cross,” Misty said.

The goal of organizers was to be able to offer participants and bystanders the opportunity to “partake in remembering Jesus’ sacrifice for us and to share this faith and love, regardless of denomination, by joining together as a community to be witnesses for Jesus during Holy Week,” Misty said.

The walk included stops at the Plainview Care Facility and Auburn Heights Care Facility. The route followed Midland Road, the main road through town, and looped through a residential area before heading back to the high school.

Along the route, volunteers collected prayer requests from neighbors and bystanders. Some of those collected prayers written on small pieces of paper were then placed at the base of the cross, and later placed inside a petition box at St. Gabriel Church.

Private intentions and prayers included praying for elderly parents and health issues. The requests were then offered up to God during the closing service upon returning to Western High School. Small handheld crosses, prayer books and song sheets were also made available for all the participants. Hymns such as “Lord, Let Me Walk,” and “Lift High the Cross,” were sung throughout the journey. The concluding prayers also included the Divine Mercy Chaplet.

Brody Squires, 13, a student at Bay City Western Middle School, carried the cross for part of the walk. It was his first time participating in the event. Some of his friends also attended and enjoyed the outing. Brody said he grew closer to understanding what Jesus encountered while carrying the cross.

“It was pretty heavy and tall. It dug into my shoulder. I could understand a little bit of what Jesus went through, on a smaller scale. My heart did feel closer to him as we walked and took turns carrying the cross,” Brody said.

Brody, who is part of the youth ministry group, says while at first he did not want to join the youth ministry group, he has come to enjoy their activities and has grown closer to Jesus. 

“[The Cross Walk] was pretty cool. I liked it. I would definitely go again,” he said. 

Misty says they plan to hold the event again next year and would like to see it expand into other communities.

“It’s an amazing and simple way to bring a community closer to God,” she said. “It doesn't have to be big. You can bring glory in a simple way.”

The Stations of the Cross are a 14-step Catholic devotion that commemorates Christ’s journey to the Cross and then to the tomb. The 14 devotions, or stations, focus on specific events of his Passion and death, beginning with his condemnation. The stations are commonly used as a mini pilgrimage. At each station, the individual recalls and meditates on a specific event from Christ’s Way of the Cross. Specific prayers are recited, then the individual or group move on to the next station until all 14 are complete.