On Good Friday, the entire Church fixes her gaze on the Cross at Calvary. For the St Mary Star of the Sea Parish in Milton, their view of the Cross is complemented by rolling, green farmland surrounds, the sun shining down on a white church standing strong atop a hill. Behind it, a backdrop of beautiful southern NSW escarpment.
This stunning outdoor setting is the scene for the most beautiful of Holy Week celebrations, attracting not only other local parishes including Holy Family, Ulladulla and St Patrick’s, Sussex Inlet, but an abundance of visitors from out of town and as far as Sydney too, who travel especially to Milton to join together in this particularly memorable commemoration of Jesus’ crucifixion.
“It’s become one of the most anticipated ceremonies of the Easter calendar, our Stations of the Cross led by the students of St Mary’s Star of the Sea Catholic Parish Primary School in Milton,” the school’s Religious Education Co-ordinator, Simon Kinch said.
“Each year, it is a very powerful experience to see the young people of the parish take on such an important role and to help lead the adults towards deeper engagement with their own faith.”
Over a third of the Milton school students participated in the re-enactment, all dressing up as people of Jesus’ time and involving themselves with the 14 stations: from Jesus being condemned to die and accepting his cross, to the three times He falls while carrying the cross, to being placed in the tomb.
The younger children enjoyed being members of the crowd in each scene, while Years 5 and 6 students took on larger roles. Those playing key characters prepared for weeks in advance to ensure a seamless performance for their school, parish and wider community.
School Captain, Jack Richards, said he was honoured to have played Jesus: "It was a great experience. It was really special for my Mum to see me take on that role for the school community. It was hot and hard work, but it was definitely worth it."
Ellie Fitzpatrick, St Mary’s other School Captain, was one of the women greeted by Jesus: "It felt like I was part of something important because Good Friday is such a significant part of the Church year. Lots of people come to Milton because they like watching our Stations of the Cross.”
The moving outdoor re-enactment allowed the faithful gathered to make in spirit, a pilgrimage to the pivotal scenes of Christ's suffering and death. Children, parents, teachers and parishioners alike walked together with deep devotion and reverence.
Parish priest, Fr Michael Dyer, enhanced the congregation’s reflections around this essential day for Catholicism by making meaningful connections between each station and the challenges we face in our modern, everyday lives. In acknowledgement of our national ‘Year of Youth’ in the Catholic Church, Fr Michael made specific mention of the struggles faced by our young people in Australia.
The annual tradition only typifies the ongoing, strong relationship between St Mary’s Star of the Sea parish and primary school, and the power of a special gathering and setting to remind us how blessed with gifts we are - and the gratitude we owe Jesus Christ for giving His life on Good Friday so that we may receive from God, the greatest gifts of all.