By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
IOWA CITY — “I didn’t hate the master,” said Judas, portrayed by Scott Shields. “I simply became disillusioned, bitter. … He paid for it with his innocent blood, and I got paid for it, with this,” he said, slamming a small bag full of coins onto the ambo. After Shields finished the monologue, holding a noose, choir members sang, “Were you there when Jesus was betrayed?”
On Palm Sunday night, members of St. Patrick Parish offered “We Were There,” a dramatic Way of the Cross which has become a Holy Week tradition at the parish.
Beginning in the Garden of Gethsemane and concluding at the tomb, members of St. Pat’s gave a powerful, yet personal rendition of the Passion of Jesus. A traditional refrain, “We Adore You, O Christ” announced each of the 14 stations. Then, Father Rudolph Juarez read a Scripture passage. A parishioner, portraying a character from the Scripture reading, approached the ambo and offered a dramatic monologue of an interpretation of events. A verse of “Were You There?” concluded each station.
The program followed the manuscript of “We Were There,” a Liturgical Press publication. It is based on St. John Paul II’s Scriptural Way of the Cross. Members of St. Patrick’s found a copy of the manuscript in a box about a year after moving into the new church in Iowa City and decided to give it a try, recalled Cheryl Schropp, the parish’s event coordinator. This is the seventh year the parish has presented “We Were There.”
Before the presentation, deacon candidate Angel Hernandez was a bit nervous about portraying the role of Dismas for the first time. “The butterflies are there,” he said. He sees the dramatic portrayal as a modern way to meditate on the Stations of the Cross. “It’s like being thrown 2,000 years into the past. You’re there! You look up at the crucifix and you can almost see Christ alive. It’s very emotional.”
“I think it makes the Stations of the Cross more tangible, more meaningful,” said Patrick Hartley, who has portrayed Peter for several years. “When you’re playing a role, you feel more engaged in the process. I get as much out of it as the audience, I think.”
Diane Bradford portrayed Pilate’s wife for the first time, wearing a prop crown and holding a decorative metal mirror during her monologue. “It’s been a very moving thing for me in the past to witness,” she said, noting that she felt humbled when Schropp asked her to participate.
The dramatic portrayals moved some performers and the congregation to tears, including Schropp, who portrayed the anonymous woman at the ninth station. “It brings me close to Jesus during this most holy week,” she said of the program. “It makes me think of the suffering he endured for us. When you do it, it just becomes a part of you.”