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Stations of the Cross

Christ on the cross with a dark blue sky background
Meaningful Moments

By Fr. Donal O'Keeffe

On Good Friday last year, the Columban formation community in Seoul, Korea, participated in the Good Friday liturgy organised by the Korean branch of the Global Catholic Climate Movement (GCCM). Formally inaugurated in January 2020, GCCM Korea is now a national movement coordinated by a team of lay persons, religious and priests.

The liturgy was organized by the coordinating team of GCCM where one of the key persons is Columban lay missionary, Noh Hyein Anna. In fact, it was Anna’s invitation which spurred the Columbans to participate.

statue of Christ hanging on the crossOn Good Friday, before noon about 70 people gathered in Seoul city center dividing into teams of seven – the maximum allowed to move as a group in line with the Covid Regulations.

The fourteen Stations of the Cross were set up ahead of time at various places in the financial heart of the city with the final Station on the steps of Myongdong Cathedral. The Way of the Cross highlighted the passion, suffering and death of God’s creatures in our world today.

A mix of young and old, lay, religious and priests came prepared with placards and posters highlighting the suffering world and displayed these while walking the Way of the Cross. For instance, at Station 9: Jesus falls again – we reflected on the plight of organic farmers driven to their knees by competition from industrial sized GMO farming.

At Station 6: Veronica wiping the face of Jesus – we focused on Korean solidarity with the present challenges of the people of Myanmar, formerly Burma, a nation whose natural resources have been sacrificed to the greed of the military generals. At Station 12: Jesus dies on the Cross – we mourned the loss of diversity and life due to our own greedy culture.

Starting at 11:30 a.m., the stations finished at about 1:30 pm. Walking through the city’s business center at this time we were constantly meeting office workers coming and going to lunch. The placards and posters caught the eyes of the passers by and although engrossed in conversations it was clear that they were glancing at the content and reading the messages. One or two people joined for the short prayer at the different stations.

Back in the formation house we shared about the event. It certainly was a “Stations of the Cross” with a difference! Some felt that the noise of traffic, people chatting as they went past did not facilitate deep reflection. For others this noisy, chaotic city center atmosphere was probably closer in reality to the original way of cross than any liturgy in the silence and prayerful atmosphere of a church.

Walking in a public place carrying a placard was a new experience for most of our community and so was a challenge in itself. The action of carrying a poster highlighting the suffering of the earth caused us to question more deeply our own consumer lifestyle which keeps an exploitative system in place. This is a serious challenge and invitation to us as disciples today. All in all, it was one of the most meaningful moments of Holy Week for us in Seoul.

Fr. Donal O’Keeffe is from Bantry, County Cork. Since 1976 he has been on mission in Korea, working with the urban poor and the workers’ apostolate. More recently he has worked as director of formation for the Korean region. In May 2021, Fr. Donal was honored as “Immigrant of the Year” by the Korean State in recognition of his 40 years of dedication to supporting the marginalized in Korean society.