By Andrew Ehrkamp
News Editor

To mark Good Friday, John McCormick and his two kids traded a comfortable pew in a warm church, for a two-hour walk in wet snow through the streets of Edmonton’s inner city.

“This is a good lesson for the kids,” said McCormick, whose family was among the 300 people at the 37th annual Outdoor Way of the Cross, an ecumenical event of prayer, music, singing, and reflection on the need for social justice.

“We go to the Chinese restaurant or the hockey game at Rogers Place and we don’t see those who don’t have anything. I think that’s what Jesus would want us to reflect on, on a day like today.”

The Outdoor Way of the Cross marks Jesus’ last hours before his crucifixion. Volunteers carried a large wooden cross, with stops at seven points along the two-kilometre route. The walk started near Immigration Hall, at 100th Street and 105th Avenue, and ended outside the Hope Mission. Participants were invited to bring toiletries and non-perishable food donations.

At each stop, speakers offered prayer and reflection on this year’s theme, the “Cry of the Earth and the Cry of the Poor”, based on Laudato Si, the encyclical in which Pope Francis criticizes consumerism and environmental degradation. 

“It’s the cry of those who are being oppressed, who are not being respected, who are not being cared for. And that’s where God is,” said Linda Winski, an organizer of the event, who worked for the Archdiocese of Edmonton for many years. 

“Many of us feel that if Jesus were here today, this is the part of town he’d being hanging out in.”

The route for this year’s Outdoor Way of the Cross was purposely changed so that participants passed by Rogers Place.

“It’s an invitation to question why we are building bigger and bigger buildings, like Rogers Place, for events that can only be attended by people who have,” Winski said, noting there are many who “will never be able to attend a hockey game there.”

There are an estimated 1,800 people who are homeless in Edmonton, with 5,800 families on a waiting list for affordable housing, said Greg Dewling, CEO of Capital Region Housing.

“Society really has the means to meet the needs of its neighbours,” said Dewling, one of the speakers at the Outdoor Way of the Cross. “The struggle with our society is that we simply don’t like to share.”

Organizers say participation was down for this year because of the snowy weather, but the message wasn’t lost in the crowd.

“You don’t realize it’s terrible outside and there are people who are going to have go through that not just one day, but almost all the year,” said Kate McCormick, 11. “I think it’s important we realize this is happening and we don’t see it.”

Similar events were held across the Edmonton region on Good Friday. 

St. Agnes and St. Anthony parishes hosted their first Outdoor Way of the Cross between the two south-side churches, with the traditional 14 Stations.

Rev. Joby Augustin said parishioners want to have their own event and they hope to host another one next year.

Leduc hosted its fourth annual Good Friday Carrying of the Cross, starting at the Civic Centre with stops at social service agencies throughout the city. Children were invited to bring their own crosses to carry during the event.