Omaha actress Christina Rohling portrays St. Mary Magdalene witnessing the events of Christ’s passion as depicted in the 14 Stations of the Cross March 3 at St. Wenceslaus Parish in Omaha. MIKE MAY/STAFF

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Omaha apostolate brings Stations of the Cross to life

Raising her voice in anguish she cried, “Jesus! Jesus!”

Omaha actress Christina Rohling brought to life the dramatic events of Jesus’ passion as seen through the eyes of Mary Magdalene, stirring the emotions of more than 100 people attending her March 3 presentation at St. Wenceslaus Church in Omaha.

That dramatization, called “The Magdalene XIV,” is part of an effort by XIV Ministries in Omaha to breathe new life into the Stations of the Cross devotion through unique and powerful portrayals of those 14 scenes from Christ’s passion.

Each station includes a soliloquy by Rohling, communal prayers and a time for silent reflection on the Lord’s sacrifice and one’s own spiritual journey.

“There’s just a natural, inherent drama to the stations that can draw people closer to God,” said Kevin Euteneuer, who with his wife Jen, members of Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Omaha, formed XIV Ministries in 2010.

Since then they have given their Lenten presentations at their parish, as well as Omaha parishes St. Wenceslaus, St. James and St. Bernard, St. Patrick in Fremont and St. Patrick in Elkhorn.

“The stations have been neglected in our time,” Euteneuer said. “We felt that new versions of the stations are really valuable … a new experience of the stations brings a new response.”

Euteneuer, a high school teacher with a background in speech and theater, who also is active in youth ministry, wrote and produced his first presentation, “XIV from the Crowd,” in 2010. The dramatization involves up to 20 people portraying witnesses along Jesus’ journey to Calvary who offer dramatic commentary.

Rohling and her husband, Karl, members of St. Wenceslaus Parish, first became involved with XIV Ministries as actors in that presentation eight years ago.

The March 3 event at St. Wenceslaus was the first ever presentation of “The Magdalene XIV,” said Rohling, who spent several months preparing for her role.

“I was both excited and terrified to present it for the first time at my home parish,” she said.

Rohling holds a theater degree from Pepperdine University in Malibu, California, and has been involved in community theater for more than 20 years.

And her portrayal of St. Mary Magdalene, also offered March 5 at St. Patrick Parish in Elkhorn, has been impactful.

“I thought it was powerful and moving,” St. Wenceslaus parishioner Loren Steenson told the Catholic Voice after the presentation. “It helped to better visualize, to almost participate in the Passion, like you were there.”

Carol Rygol, a parishioner at St. Wenceslaus, also found the presentation poignant. “I was mesmerized,” she said. “I liked seeing what Mary Magdalene … what the experience was for her. It brings a different impact. It makes it more human.”

“I love that people are engaged through (this) ministry,” Rohling said. “We’ve had people weeping … I’ve had people say they had not really experienced the stations until they saw this.

“For me, seeing the reactions and how people are affected by it is the most meaningful part,” she said. “It’s not performance, it’s prayer. I’m grateful that I can use my acting talent for a prayerful purpose.”

Euteneuer and his wife have plans to develop additional interpretations of the Stations of the Cross.

Future programs may include a version that connects the stations with the love and sacrifice of marriage and family life, one highlighting St. Vincent de Paul’s spiritual insights and service to the poor, and one incorporating St. Ignatius of Loyola’s prayer method of entering into Scriptural scenes.