Bishop Alfred Schlert led the faithful in praying the Stations of the Cross in support of survivors of sexual abuse and their families. About 50 people traveled through the foggy night to attend the 7:00pm ceremony at St. Francis Retreat House in Easton.
The 14 Stations of the Cross are occasions for meditating on Jesus’s unjust condemnation, humiliation, torture, death, and burial.
During the Friday, March 31 ceremony, each station was accompanied by a scripture reading and a reflection composed by Fr. James Paradis, OSA. The reflections, read by Bishop Schlert, drew parallels between the sufferings of Jesus and those of sexual abuse survivors. Deacon Christopher May read the passages from scripture.
Fr. Paradis gave a brief homily following the last station. “It is not easy for you to listen, to participate in, and to pray these Stations, whether you yourself are a survivor of abuse, or you’re a family member who has a son, daughter, or other relation [who is a survivor of abuse,]” he told attendees.
“You help us all to trust in the love of the crucified One who is risen but still bears His wounds to all and whose light breaks through the darkness and despair, especially to those who know lasting wounds themselves,” he added.
Fr. Paradis, who holds a Doctor of Ministry degree in Clinical Pastoral Psychology and is an advocate for the victims of abuse and violence, was invited to the Diocese of Allentown by Bishop Schlert for the ceremony. Fr. Paradis resides at St. Augustine Church in Philadelphia, where he is prior of the local Augustinian community.
Following the homily, Bishop Schlert delivered off-the-cuff remarks: “Holy Week is made up of the tragic events in the life of Christ—His betrayal, His Passion, His death on the Cross. All this leads up to His triumph at the Easter Vigil. It reminds us that, yes, there is tragedy in the Church. More than we would like to admit; more than we would like to acknowledge. But the Resurrection is also there. There is a message of hope, of rebirth, and we take that to ourselves and we embrace it. Even as we have to embrace the hurt or scandal in the Church, so we have to embrace also the hope of Christ.”
Bishop Schlert, Fr. Paradis, and Deacon May greeted the faithful one by one as they filed out of the chapel.