A steady rain didn’t dampen the spirits of some 150 people who participated in a mile-long procession of witness from Camden’s St. John the Evangelist Church to Manley Field Oct. 6.
Led by an escort from the Camden Police Department, 45 walkers and about 50 cars made their way to the 25–acre property owned by the church for a ceremony pastor Father Carlo Stirpe called “staking a claim for Christ.”
The field, purchased by the parish 75 years ago, will be the site of the soon-to-be-installed Stations of Mercy, Father Stirpe said. The Stations will be composed of a central altar and a 15-foot-tall steel cross flanked by 14 10-foot crosses, each dedicated to an issue of social justice. All will be welcome to walk or drive on to the field to pray the Stations; the field will also continue to be available for community events, Father Stirpe said.
The vision for the Stations came to Father Stirpe at Divine Mercy Sunday, as he considered how to use the property and how to celebrate the Year of Faith, he said. The social justice focus was inspired by Pope Francis’ commitment to the Church’s social teachings, he added. For about three months, in the wee hours of the morning, Father Stirpe wrote prayers for each station, now collected in a small booklet produced by the parish. Among the prayers are those that ask for mercy on those who abuse life in all forms; on those who do not honor the sufferings of the unemployed, alien and truly poor; and on nations that cause war on others and displace, slaughter and commit atrocities on their own citizens.
Parishioners have sponsored each of the crosses, which cost around $450 each. Nancy Choquette, pastoral associate at St. John’s, said she and her husband are helping to sponsor the largest cross, dedicated to priests and bishops, to honor the “many wonderful relationships” they’ve had with priests and bishops over the years. Having traveled the world as a military family, Choquette said they have been blessed by those relationships.
Ten of the crosses were brought to the field for blessing during the Oct. 6 ceremony. Father Stirpe said he hopes to have the crosses installed by and dedicated around Divine Mercy Sunday 2014.