by Jeremy Griffith
Faithful Christians all over the world marked the anniversary of the death of Jesus Christ this Good Friday, as they do every year, in their own way. This year Rochester area Catholics silently marched through the city’s main streets, led by a contingent of priests bearing a cross.
Margaret Kelsey, Parish Administrator of St. John the Evangelist Church in Rochester, spoke about the importance of the event.
“This is our thirteen year participating in this event. We first began in 2000,” said Kelsey. “We observe four of the 14 stations of the cross in a silent march through the city, remembering the suffering and sacrifice of Jesus.” The march is an annual event organized by local members of Communion and Liberation, a worldwide Catholic organization begun in Italy in 1954.
The march began in front of the Government Center in Rochester and from there traveled to the Peace Plaza, Statuary Park and then the church itself. Often parishioners, numbering in the hundreds, marched two by two down the center of Rochester’s main streets, escorted by city police. At four separate times, at the locations mentioned above, the parishioners gathered to sing songs and hear a litany read. Father Gerald Mahon, pastor of the church, made comments at each of these stops.
At the government center Mahon recognized the importance of good government in protecting the rights of citizens, including the right to practice one’s faith and one’s right to freedom of expression.
With the Government Center as a backdrop Mahon said, “Good government is necessary for the preservation of the freedom of the American people. I hope and pray that our government always continues to protect our religious liberties.”
Standing at the Peace Plaza in the triangle of the Kahler Hotel, and the Mayo Clinic’s Siebens and Gonda Buildings, Mahon praised the compassion and service of the Mayo Clinic, comparing it with the compassion of Christ in healing the sick. “We recognize the service of the many doctors and nurses and other health care professionals who serve this community,” said Mahon. “We recognize in them the compassion of our Lord, Jesus Christ, the great physician.”
At the third location, Mahon spoke at Statuary park next to statues of William and Charles Mayo, the Founding Brothers of the Mayo Clinic where they sit opposite the Gonda Buiding across from the church. He again praised the Clinic, saying. “Our health care professionals do so much for us to keep us well. But sometimes things get confused, because as people they do not know us. Our Lord knows us and accepts us as we are, where we are.”
The people participating in the procession were a diverse but silent group. African American families joined Hispanic and white families. The group was as diverse as their clergy and leaders. Efforts to engage them in conversation during the march were in vain. When a reporter approached a senior citizen marching at the rear of the crowd, the woman commented only, “We’re not out for a walk, we are in procession and aren’t supposed to talk.”
There was an undercurrent to the event that reflected the national tone. Several of the parishioners marched in hoodies in remembrance of the tragic death of Trayvon Martin in Florida. None would speak to reporters who approached them but only disappeared in the crowd when the procession began to march again.
Other church leaders joined in the somber event, including Father John Lashuba, Parochial Vicar of St. John’s from South Sudan, Deacon Adam McMillan, Music Director Sebastian Modarelli, Dr. Sidna Scheitel, and Margaret Kelsey.