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Pilsen church celebrates scaled-down living way of the cross

This year, St. Procopius has brought back Pilsen Via Crucis, a living way of the cross celebration that has been a staple in the catholic Pilsen community for 44 years.

Isaac Bucio, who plays Jesus Christ, acts as if he is crucified during Via Crucis on the field of St. Procopius Catholic Church in Pilsen, Friday morning, April 2, 2021. The annual Via Crucis is a Good Friday tradition that reenacts the Stations of the Cross, a Catholic devotion that recounts Jesus’ passion and death.
Isaac Pucio, who plays Jesus Christ, acts as if he is crucified during Via Crucis on the field of St. Procopius Catholic Church in Pilsen, Friday morning, April 2, 2021. The annual Via Crucis is a Good Friday tradition that reenacts the Stations of the Cross, a Catholic devotion that recounts Jesus’ passion and death.
Pat Nabong/Sun-Times

Isaac Bucio marched in tattered, bloodstained robes with a massive wooden cross on his back for St. Procopius Catholic Church’s annual Via Crucis event Friday.

His fellow actors whipped him lightly with a rope covered in fake blood as a procession followed in prayer down Racine Avenue in Pilsen.

Via Crucis, which means Stations of the Cross in Spanish, was canceled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Rev. Adan Sandoval was grateful the church could hold the Good Friday procession again even though the crowd was half of its usual throng of “thousands.” Those who couldn’t be there live, could watch the event virtually.

“At times we hear so much negative news that we are closing churches and that people don’t go to church anymore,” Sandoval said. “But there’s another side of the story, that some people have this hunger for God, and we need to celebrate that.”

This is the 44th year the church has held the procession — the oldest in the Midwest, according to Sandoval.

The procession usually starts at St. Procopius, 1641 S Allport St., and ends at Harrison Park, at 1824 S Wood St., where there is a reenactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. This year, a reenactment of the Last Supper was live-streamed from the Providence of God Church, 717 W 18th St., before the march ended at a soccer field outside of St. Procopius, where large wooden crosses had been placed. At the soccer field, the actors reenacted the crucifixion, capping off this year’s Via Crucis.

Bucio, a Chicago firefighter, has played Jesus Christ on several other occasions for the church. He just got the call last week about reprising his role again for Via Crucis.

“It brings the whole community together,” Bucio said of the procession. “When this is full-blown, 18th street you can’t walk. People come out just to get a glimpse of the procession passing by.”