Hundreds take part each year in Saskatoon’s annual Way of the Cross on Good Friday. Photo courtesy Diocese of Saskatoon

Catholic social teaching shows the Way

  • March 28, 2024

Catholic social teaching has driven the Diocese of Saskatoon’s annual Good Friday outdoor Way of the Cross tradition since it was established 24 years ago.

Perennially, between 400 and 600 people participate in a route beginning at the Court of King’s Bench of Saskatchewan and ending at St. Paul’s Co-Cathedral overlooking the South Saskatchewan River in the city’s downtown. At each station, a reflection is prepared and read by a representative from a parish, lay group or an ecumenical partner organization that champions Catholic values to complement the scriptural Way of the Cross meditations authored by St. John Paul II. 

The two-hour trek highlights many pressing issues, such as euthanasia, poverty and homelessness, Christian persecution, solidarity with creation, world peace, polarization, human trafficking and the racial divisions that still exist between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.

Office of Justice and Peace coordinator Myron Rogal said the diocese selects “themes that point to the fullness of Catholic social teaching” as he and his colleagues “recognize that it is the greatest project we have to holistically preserve and celebrate human dignity.”

The Saskatoon-based entities helming spiritual examinations include The Salvation Army, the Catholic Women’s League, Canadian Aid to Persecuted Christians, Development and Peace, Saskatoon Pregnancy Options Centre and The People Bridge Advocacy. Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, which serves First Nations, Métis, Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, also delivers a reflection, while Bishop Mark Hagemoen offers a blessing.

Rogal said the stop where Sacred Heart Chaldean Church congregants take charge is fascinating.

“They are leading a station that reflects on the challenges of newcomers,” said Rogal. “They read the Scripture passage and the reflection for the first time in Aramaic. It is very powerful to hear the language that Christ Himself spoke on the day of His Passion.”

Each Way of the Cross also features an overarching theme. This year, it is “From Slavery to Freedom to Combat a Deficit of Hope,” inspired by Pope Francis’ 2024 Lenten message. The Bishop of Rome centred his missive on the Book of Exodus, which saw the Lord God emancipate His people from their cruel Egyptian taskmasters and led them on a path of renewal, hope and spiritual freedom.

The Pope wrote that conferring with his brother bishops and figures who work for peace and justice has “increasingly convinced” him that “we need to combat a deficit of hope that stifles dreams and the silent cry that reaches to Heaven and moves the heart of God.”

Francis declared that this “deficit of hope is not unlike the nostalgia for slavery that paralyzed Israel in the desert and prevented it from moving forward. An exodus can be interrupted: how else can we explain the fact that humanity has arrived at the threshold of universal fraternity and at levels of scientific, technical, cultural and juridical development capable of guaranteeing dignity to all, yet gropes about in the darkness of inequality and conflict.”

While many forces cause a “deficit of hope,” the Way of the Cross endeavours to supply hope and inspiration.

“At the 13th station, when Christ dies, there are two minutes of silence along the riverbank on Good Friday, which is quite powerful to experience,” said Rogal. “Participants comment on the prayerfulness, and they comment on the witness aspect. Going through the city’s downtown core draws all sorts of onlookers and brings their curiosity out of them.

“As well with the participants, I am always surprised by who attends,” continued Rogal. “There are Catholics and many other Christians who come to participate in the day. And then there are those who are simply curious, looking for meaning and trying to understand why Good Friday is not just another holiday. Many of those people return year after year.”

Please support The Catholic Register

Unlike many media companies, The Catholic Register has never charged readers for access to the news and information on our website. We want to keep our award-winning journalism as widely available as possible. But we need your help.

For more than 125 years, The Register has been a trusted source of faith-based journalism. By making even a small donation you help ensure our future as an important voice in the Catholic Church. If you support the mission of Catholic journalism, please donate today. Thank you.