Craft crosses are seen at the foot of the Cross at the altar at St. Ignatius Parish from last year’s Children’s Way Of The Cross event. Photo courtesy Carmela Castellano Sinclair

Christ’s Passion through the eyes of a child

  • March 29, 2024

St. Ignatius Parish prepared its youth for Easter in what is becoming an annual tradition at the Winnipeg parish.

On Good Friday, St. Ignatius was hosting its second Children’s Way of the Cross — an event run by and for kids. It’s an interactive and family-oriented experience that engages kids in the traditional observance of the Stations of the Cross. 

The event is making its return this year after Michelle Laniog, who formed the planning committee along with Carmela Castellano Sinclair, Maricar Cortez and Carly Sanders, launched the unique event last year. 

“Michelle approached Carmela, the director of St. Ignatius’ spiritual education centre, and then Carmela approached me. We all kind of drew on our gifts together to try and make this event happen,” said Sanders. 

The event operates as a routine Stations of the Cross devotion, which normally sees attendees pray and reflect at each of the 14 stations of the Passion of Christ. However, to engage the youth, the Children’s Way of the Cross operates with more active participation during the reflections.

Kids are given activity packages that include a paper Cross alongside a variety of tools used in different ways. Each child is asked to write down a reflection on their Cross at each station as they make their way through the devotions.

“The kids can all genuflect at the Cross on the altar and bring the paper Crosses that they made, all in pastel Easter colours. It will then become a part of a display for the community to enjoy afterwards,” said Sanders. 

After tentatively planning for around 50 children last year, organizers were surprised to run out of activity packages during the affair. This year, upwards of 200 kids are expected to attend the Children’s Way of the Cross, not including additional family members who participate alongside the kids. 

Each station’s description is read aloud by a volunteer child from the parish as well, adding to the youth-driven focus of the event. A youth choir is present, performing hymns in between each station. As for the age range, participants range from toddlers all the way to university-aged young adults. This year, around 30 children from the parish were expected to volunteer and assist in running the event.

St. Ignatius, a Jesuit parish, is focused on working in its community to amplify the four Jesuit apostolic preferences, which include the promotion of discernment and spiritual exercises, care for our common home, walking with the excluded and journeying with youth. This event focuses heavily on the latter, prioritizing youth participation at every chance. 

“It has always been really important to us within the community of St. Ignatius to be more intentional about being welcoming in reaching out to certain groups, in particular our young people,” said Sanders. 

Sanders said the event is intended to be a gentle introduction to Jesus’ Passion in a way children are better able to understand. 

“Good Friday service can sometimes be very difficult to take small kids to because of how busy and full it can be. To have this option that’s steered towards their language and on their level, but still so solemn and beautifully done, is great,” said Sanders.

“After last year, my own daughter had a much better understanding of what we’re going through when we observe the Passion. When you put it in terms of examples from school, home life and the things that they encounter day to day, they can understand what the Cross was all about a little bit easier.” 

Through that growing understanding, children will also develop a deeper appreciation for the joy that awaits us a short time after Good Friday. 

“I think they understand what Easter joy means all that much better as well. If we draw them in and allow them to participate in a way that they can understand it,” she added. 

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