By Joyce Gan
FOR THE LAST 15 years, Catholics here have been able to pray the Stations of the Cross, in just about the same way they would at Lourdes. This experience can be had at the Church of St. Joseph (Bukit Timah), with its larger-than-life outdoor stations that go around the perimeter of one side of the church compound.
Every Friday night in Lent sees the 14 stations at St. Joseph's being lit up by at least 300 candle flames from those attending the service organised by the St. Joseph parishioners. Groups from other parishes also organise their private devotions there throughout the Lenten season. The devotions climax on Good Friday where almost a thousand Catholics and even non- Catholics come together to pray the stations.
Parish priest Father Lawrence Yeo shared that Father Augustine Tay, then parish priest at the Church of St. Joseph, wanted to have the same outdoor stations as the one in Lourdes. This vision was realised with the generosity and love of the St. Joseph parishioners as well as people of good will from all over.
"[Our stations] are built by donors," Father Yeo said. With these stations, Catholics are able to "meditate on the sufferings and to follow the journey of our Lord Jesus Christ up to Calvary", said Father Yeo who finds this "a very good religious practice" that he hopes more people will follow.
Father Yeo is encouraged by the non-Catholics who seek to pray the Stations of the Cross too. "It is a very good sign of ecumenism," he said.
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PRAYER SESSIONS for a particular ministry or community can be arranged, just as Catholics from various parishes have done for the last 10 years. Just on one weekend of Mar 18 and 19, parishioners from the Churches of St. Vincent de Paul and Holy Family prayed there.
Victor Sim, 76, a Communion minister and sacristan at the St. Vincent de Paul parish, has been gathering parishioners to pray the stations at St. Joseph's every Lent for more than six years. "We have a stations of the cross so beautiful in our own country to devote our passion to," he shared of his pride in the St. Joseph's stations, that it does not make sense if it is not used, he said.
Mr Sim usually organises these trips in the daytime so that the elderly people whom he takes along with him can see and walk more easily. Because these are outdoor stations, some people complain that it can get too hot. Mr Sim sees it differently. "I imagine myself living during the years when Jesus was living and suffering. So I think to myself, what's a little heat? What is that compared to what Jesus went through?"
There is the alternative to pray these stations at night, as how the Holy Family parishioners did on the night of Mar 19. Seventy of them, including the Elect who are to be baptised this Easter, followed Andrew Goh for these stations.
Mr Goh describes his mission as one of a catechist for the elderly, including non-English speaking candidates who wish to be baptised in the faith. He admits that he does branch out from that mission, which explains why he has been organising trips to the St. Joseph's stations for more than 10 years.
Although he admits that there is a lot of logistics work to be done, seeing the big statues at the stations is a reward in itself. "This is the time to ask for forgiveness and for the Lord to give us peace," he shares of his personal experiences.
Does he ever get tired of doing the same thing every year though? "The energy is from the Lord," he simply stated. â–
The Stations of the Cross is held by the St. Joseph parish in Teochew every Friday evening at 6.30pm and in English at 8.00pm for the season of Lent.