With stripes of red welts across his back, and scars riddling his shoulders and chest, Emmanuel Garcia picked up his phone, and swiped his thumb across the screen.
Surrounded by more than a dozen other teenagers in a cafeteria room under St. Mary’s Catholic Church, a castmate in a robe saw him looking into the glow from his phone.
“Is Jesus playing Fortnite?” she asked.
“He was, before,” Garcia admitted with a laugh.
Hours before their Stations of the Cross presentation Friday afternoon at the church, as Garcia and others scrambled to paint on those welts with lipstick, stick on those scars with Halloween-themed temporary tattoos, and put together plenty of other period costumes, it was plain to see the youth movement involved in keeping the church’s Easter weekend tradition going strong.
With a cast made up mostly of teenagers, the group put on its play later Friday in the sun, depicting progressing scenes from the day of Jesus’ crucifixion.
“You get to do something and contribute to the community and share your religion with others, and you also get to have fun with your friends,” said Garcia, as he got set to portray Jesus in the event — and as he, in no small task for him or plenty other 14-year-olds like him, managed to keep his thumbs away from 2018’s most popular video game.
Mixing that youthful enthusiasm with the appropriate, solemn reflection, the youth group took hold of the Stations of the Cross presentation this year, practicing for weeks to put together the performance on Good Friday, and energize the church around it.
“It gives me life,” Father Bernardito Getigan said of the youth group’s participation. Getigan first got to St. Mary’s last July, making this his first Easter weekend with the church.
“This is my first time, so when I did the dress rehearsal with them last Sunday, I was really touched to see the kids these young — teenagers — doing the Stations of the Cross,” he said.
“The Stations of the Cross requires sacrifice, and time on the part of the young people. And they make the time. That’s amazing to me,” he added.
St. Mary’s has been putting on a Stations of the Cross presentation on Good Friday for almost a decade, but it’s only been in the past couple of years that the youth group has taken ownership of the event, said church youth coordinator Bobby Wright.
“Before, a lot of these were adults,” Wright said, looking over that cafeteria room, as those teens got their costumes together for their parts.
Of course, there are adults still involved in helping the event run. Moments before he spoke, Wright stood out back in the alley between the church and the adjacent school, scratching his chin as Pablo Davila stood by with a power drill in hand, as the two made late adjustments to the big wooden cross on the ground at their feet that they’d use in the performance.
That was before Wright had most of his costume on, in preparation to play a Roman guard. “Somebody’s got to be the bad guy,” he cracked.
But for the most part, the event has recently become something that the youth group has taken reins of, and those involved wouldn’t want it any other way.
“It’s been growing and growing,” Wright said.
“It’s part of their spiritual formation, to go through the passion itself. What we’ve done is when we’ve practiced, we’ll do a reflection with them. They get spiritual development as they’re going through the practices and everything else.”
For them, Garcia said, it’s all from those things, from enlightening to fun, and a part of fellowship and camaraderie on Easter weekend.
“It just shows that not only adults are interested. We also have interest, and we also want to do things,” Garcia said.
Jesus played by Emmanuel Garcia, 14, speaks to God saying “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23: 44-46) during St. Mary’s Catholic Church’s live Stations of the Cross Friday afternoon outside St. Mary’s Catholic Church.
Jacob Ford|Odessa American
Jesus played by Emmanuel Garcia, 14, is held by Mother Mary played by Enelicia Rivera, 14, after being taken down from the cross during St. Mary’s Catholic Church’s live Stations of the Cross Friday afternoon outside St. Mary’s Catholic Church.
Jacob Ford|Odessa American