Stations of Cross find new home in Ridgeway Print
Around the Diocese
Written by Cathy Lins, Catholic Herald Correspondent   
Thursday, Sep. 12, 2019 -- 12:00 AM
stations of cross
Outdoor Stations of the Cross have been installed recently at St. Bernardette Parish on the exterior of the Religious Education Building at St. Bridget Church in Ridgeway. A formal blessing of the Stations will be done on Saturday, Sept. 14, following a 10 a.m. Mass at the church. A procession to the Stations will include the blessing and praying of the Stations. (Cathy Lins photo)

RIDGEWAY -- On Saturday, Sept. 14, on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, St. Bernadette Parish will have a formal blessing of its newly installed life-size outdoor Stations of the Cross.

The Stations are on the exterior of the Religious Education Building located at 106 North St. in Ridgeway.

Fr. Lawrence Zurek, OFM Conv, will join Fr. Steve Petrica, VF, pastor, in celebrating Mass at 10 a.m. at St. Bridget Church, followed by a procession to the Stations for their blessing, which will include praying the Stations.

Father Zurek is the administrator of the Basilica of St. Josaphat, which is a ministry of the Conventual Franciscans on the South Side of Milwaukee in the historic Lincoln Village neighborhood. It is one of 82 minor basilicas found in the United States.

Franciscan devotion

Father Petrica shared that there is a long association between the Franciscan order and the Stations of the Cross devotion, which they promote as a way to vicariously walk the actual Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem.

The original Via Dolorosa winds through Jerusalem, from the site where Pilate condemned Jesus to death to Mount Calvary and to the tomb where Jesus was buried.

Father Petrica said, “The Franciscans have historically been associated with the devotion and with the holy sites in Jerusalem. (Although it’s a different branch of the Franciscan family that maintains the holy sites.) It was customary for the blessing of Stations to be reserved to a Franciscan priest. That practice is no longer obligatory, but we chose to honor the historical connection. Father Zurek also reminded me that the Feast of the Holy Cross is when St. Francis received the Stigmata.

“The Way of the Cross has always been a favorite devotion of mine,” Father Petrica said, “and I like the idea of having a set that we in the parish could use for our own devotion, but that also might be a small evangelistic witness to the larger public.”

He added, “There was a vogue in the 1970s for adding a 15th Station, for the Resurrection. I tend to be kind of traditionally-minded, so I was never entirely comfortable with that innovation.

“But when I was in Jerusalem this past January, celebrating Mass at the tomb of Jesus in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, it struck me with new force that the tomb of Jesus is also the site of his Resurrection. Therefore, the 15th Station is implicit in the 14th. It’s a concrete manifestation of the Paschal Mystery.”

Found at a garage sale

This project began because “I truly believe that God put me in the right place at the right time,” said Lynn Ballweg Schlimgen. “It was a sign from above. I followed a garage sale sign in my neighborhood, and when I drove down the long driveway and into the yard, I saw this one Station of the Cross up in the yard, which really piqued my interest.

“How could this Station of the Cross have only been a mile from my home and I was not aware of it? The garage sale was in a large shed on the property. As I was looking for personal treasures, I discovered the unassembled parts for the rest of the Stations in the shed. I just had to know about these.” The lady having the garage sale was Mary Ann Croft.

Schlimgen continued, “She told me that her brother, who lived in northern Wisconsin, had made them for her. Mary Ann was in the process of moving from her country home to a big city apartment and was not sure what was going to happen to the Stations.

“I could tell that the Lord was telling me that I was to help her find a home for them. I contacted Father Petrica right away and took him to see them. Mary Ann only had a few days before moving and needed to find a home for the Stations right away.”

Story of these Stations

Croft said, “I am thrilled that the Stations have found a home and that they may facilitate our devotion to the Lord!” She explained how she became involved with these Stations.

“To tell the story completely, I must go back in time to a crisis in our own community at St. Mary’s Pine Bluff in February 2005, when a strip club was started. Fr. Rick Heilman, upon hearing that there was a strip club started down the street from the St. Mary’s Pine Bluff Catholic Church, initiated a plan to recite the Stations of the Cross -- miracle mile extending from the church to down the street in front of the strip club and back.

“The Stations were made of simple small wooden crosses -- no images. After much recitation of the Stations of the Cross on the miracle mile and a legal battle, the strip club was closed.” Croft was one of the prayer warriors.

She said, “When the Madison Surgery Center announced February 2009 that they would be doing second trimester abortions, a prayer vigil was implemented by Steve Karlen in front of the Madison Surgery Center. I was there one day praying the Rosary with Steve Karlen and Jeanne Breunig. I was thinking of what could be done to stop the plans to have the abortions there.

“I thought of Fr. Rick Heilman and saying the Stations in front of the Madison Surgery Center. I asked Steve and Jeanne about it, and they liked the idea. I immediately called Father Rick on my cell phone, and he loved the idea, too. We made plans to recite the Stations at a later date.

“However, we needed Station images. I downloaded the Station images from the internet, enlarged them, laminated them, and then placed each Station image in a picture frame. I also placed Roman numerals on the bottom of each image.

“The Stations of the Cross were recited on the sidewalk outside the Madison Surgery Center using these images. The Stations of the Cross were led by Fr. Rick Heilman, and the Knights of Divine Mercy held the images around the Madison Surgery Center. Father Rick blessed the Station images and touched them to the replicated image of Our Lady of Guadalupe that travels to various locations.”

The Surgery Center administrators abandoned the plans to do second trimester abortions there in May of 2010.

Croft was also asked by a Christian group from Green Bay to bring the Stations to the sidewalk by the abortion facility there. “I was unexpectedly asked to say a few words. I felt inspired to say, and this is all I said: ‘Now is the beginning of the end of abortion in this country.’ I believe that abortion facility is now closed.

“After that,” she said, “I was sitting in my home surrounded by the Stations, and I was thinking that the Stations that I had made in the picture frames needed a home and were too important for me to keep for my own.

“So I asked my brother Mike to help me with making something to house the Station images to be used in an outside setting. The Station house (outside box) and the large cross were handmade by Mike Croft of Crivitz at his sawmill in Crivitz . At the time, Mike was reading the St. Faustina diary and he was inspired with the design of the large wooden cross and housing box to hold each Station image.

Looking for a home

“All the while, I kept searching for a home for the Stations. I mentioned the Stations to various priests, but the Stations were rather large for inside the church. I had not heard from anyone for some time, and we had to move from our country home in Barneveld.

“Having found no home for the Stations, I was going to take them back to our family farm at Crivitz. I went out to the yard to load the crosses onto my trailer. Just then, Lynn Schlimgen drove into the yard and said that Father Steve asked her to let me know that they had decided to accept the Stations and so they had a home for them.”

“The Knights of Columbus further encased the Stations images and the picture frames which held them inside another wood frame and plastic cover to protect them from the elements and placed them in the housing that my brother had made,” said Croft.

Father Petrica noted that Sean Sutter, Tom Pechan, and other local Knights of Columbus members completed the final installation.

Father Petrica said the Stations are open to the public 24/7. “We’d be delighted to have visitors come pray.” He did note that they may take the crosses in for the winter if the weather adversely affects them.

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