By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published April 11, 2013
ATLANTA—Scores of believers walked the city streets on Good Friday, recalling the final hours of Jesus before his crucifixion.
The 33rd annual Good Friday Pilgrimage began at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and ended hours later overlooking the tomb of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at the King Center reflection pool. Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory and Episcopal Bishop of Atlanta Robert Wright attended the event.
Participants felt drawn to the yearly event that follows the 14 stations of the Way of the Cross on one of the most somber days in the church year. The faithful in the crowd saw it as a way to give voice to people in need, to show their faith in a public gesture, and be reminded of the church’s social teaching.
Breon Hasket, 47, a member of Transfiguration Church, Marietta, spoke at the fourth station: Jesus meets his mother. He participates in Stand Up for Kids and Covenant House Georgia, where he organizes outreach to homeless youth. The pilgrimage took the group across a bridge where the volunteers often go looking for people underneath.
The first time he was invited, but this time he returned for “the spiritual and communal experience,” he said in an email.
“The pilgrimage was significant because it allowed for the faith community to engage in the advocacy piece of Catholic social teaching. I feel as if we do a tremendous job with charitable acts but have not engaged often enough in advocacy,” he said.
The event drew people from across the region, speaking in different languages.
Signing in American Sign Language, Frania Franch, 49, is a leader in deaf ministry at Transfiguration Church and serves on the Disabilities Ministry Advisory Board for the Archdiocese of Atlanta. She signed at the sixth station, Veronica wipes the face of Jesus. Her reflection focused on “embracing the gifts of the disabled.”
The pilgrimage gave her an opportunity to experience in a small way what Jesus did, she said.
“The viewers looked at us as we followed the cross. (Georgia State University) students paused when they let us get through on the sidewalk. I felt that the message was loud and seen. I was not ashamed to follow Jesus,” she said.
Jennifer Pettipas-Buescher, 49, attends St. Brendan the Navigator Church, Cumming, and Prince of Peace Church, Flowery Branch. She’s an international flight attendant for Delta Air Lines and a child advocate for Forsyth County. She’s also a mentor and life skills coordinator for the Our Family program.
She read Scripture and prayer at the eighth station in Italian: Jesus speaks to the women of Jerusalem.
“It was especially enjoyable to see the diversity in the participants from all over the Atlanta area and other denominations all coming together to take a stand on the same human issues that bond us,” she said in an email. It was her first time attending. Her husband, Bill Buescher, 53, a sacristan at Prince of Peace Church, carried the cross from the seventh station to the eighth.
Her faith compels her “to speak out on issues of human rights and to support those who work for positive change,” she said.
“We are all children of God, brothers and sisters in Christ, yet there are many who are not treated as equal. Catholic means universal and we are called to bring the kingdom to earth, in the way we best can, one step at a time,” she said.