Seeing their 12-year-old son, Andrew, act in the Living Stations of the Cross sparks a big wave of nostalgia for Tim and Alicia Loso. They were part of the same production as teens, so Andrew represents the second generation of Living Stations at St. Margaret Mary Church in Apalachin.
“Oh, I’m thrilled,” Alicia said.
“It makes you incredibly proud. it just brings back the memories,” her husband added.
Many memories will be honored on the evening of Saturday, April 8, when a 30th-anniversary Living Stations reunion is held at St. Margaret Mary. Approximately 100 people are expected for the pasta dinner, with speakers representing different eras of the program including one member of the inaugural Living Stations in 1977. Another highlight will be the playing of two popular Living Stations hymns, “Were You There” and “Be Not Afraid.”
Living Stations began at St. Margaret Mary when the idea of a youth-led Stations of the Cross, now popular in many parts of the Rochester Diocese, was fairly new. It received considerable support from Father Elmer Schmidt, the former pastor who now lives at McAuley Residence in Rochester. Sue White, St. Margaret Mary’s junior- and senior-high youth minister, said she recently sent Father Schmidt a letter informing him of the Living Stations reunion.
“I thanked him for his insight into bringing it to St. Margaret Mary. He was the one who thought it was a good idea,” White said.
Whereas most Living Stations are held once or twice during Lent, St. Margaret Mary’s takes place every Lenten Friday with an itinerary that has expanded beyond Tioga County over the years. Among the seven scheduled performances this year are an appearance at Rochester’s Sacred Heart Cathedral on March 31; a return to the Elmira Correctional Facility on April 7; and a concluding Living Stations on Good Friday, April 14, at St. Margaret Mary beginning at 7:30 p.m.
Approximately 50 people — youth cast and crew along with adult volunteers — make up the Living Stations team. Although the basic format of depicting Christ’s Passion remains the same, the cast has grown larger and other aspects also have evolved over time. Alicia Loso observed that today’s actors are more vocal, such as the angry crowd that now yells and screams instead of miming as in the past. Tim Loso added that cast members are now involved in the singing. In recent years the group has instituted a “modern reader,” who describes the Passion from the viewpoint of somebody who’s been sent back from today to biblical times.
By rotating their portrayals of biblical figures, performers can weigh the Passion from numerous perspectives. White said she’s impressed at how these youths can be fun-loving teenagers most of the time but still transform quickly into their characters. The most solemn of these roles belongs to the person playing Jesus, as Tim Loso knows from having played the part.
“It’s physically demanding. You get to experience to a certain degree what Jesus went through; it’s also a very emotional experience,” said Loso, who performed in Living Stations from 1980-83 and is now an adult adviser.
Andrew, a first-year performer, often plays a person in the crowd and also has been trained for the roles of Simon Peter and John. He hopes to follow in his father’s footsteps by portraying Jesus in the future, saying he expects to stay involved with Living Stations right through high school.
“I would never give it up. It’s a part of my life now,” Andrew said. “It’s a blast, really. It’s fun being with all these people I know, and also performing to tons of people who love the performance. You see some people cry, and the fact you made them do that, it’s an amazing experience.”
Rehearsals for Living Stations begin each January. Most, but not all, performers are from St. Margaret Mary, a worship site of the Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick’s parishes. The production also attracts participation by Catholic and non-Catholic teens from other parts of Tioga County and neighboring Broome County.
“A lot of the kids today in it are not members of any church, which I find interesting,” remarked Alicia Loso, who took part in Living Stations from 1984-88 as a reader. She and her husband were married in 1992.
White said the concept of Living Stations is ideal because “it covers every part of youth ministry” — social, catechesis, prayer, sacrifice, service. Many adults find it fulfilling as well, she added.
“The outpouring of volunteerism is just beyond belief — people who are just so willing and so ready,” remarked White, whose husband, Terry, has been involved in Living Stations for 24 years and is currently the director. White’s simple explanation for this high commitment level is that “it’s by the grace of God.”
“You get very close with the members of the cast. You create memories you keep; you get closer than the average experience of being in school,” Tim Loso said. “You don’t have to be an outstanding actress or actor. You really have a profound effect, and you feel you’re doing something extremely fulfilling.”
“It’s touched so many people. And when you’ve done that, it’s not something you want to quit,” Alicia Loso agreed.