Omaha Way of the Cross pilgrims carry prayers over 15 miles on Good Friday
March 30, 2023
The Our Lady of Lourdes Way of the Cross on Good Friday is not for the weak of heart – or foot.
The 14 Stations of the Cross are stretched across 15 miles of east Omaha hills, with each Station a stop at a Catholic church or cemetery.
This year’s second annual Way of the Cross begins at 7 a.m. April 7 at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, 2110 S. 32nd Ave., and ends there six or seven hours later, depending on one’s pace.
From Our Lady of Lourdes, the Stations of the Cross wind north toward downtown with stops at the churches of St. Peter, St. Mary Magdalene and St. John at Creighton University, then west toward St. Cecilia Cathedral.
The course then continues south to St. Barnabas Church, Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Holy Cross, St. Thomas More and Holy Ghost churches, before rounding east to St. Mary Magdalene Cemetery and north to St. Stanislaus, St. Adalbert and Our Lady of Lourdes churches.
Several past pilgrims said the walk offered them their own personal way to enter into Christ’s Passion.
“I’ve done them (the Stations) in church, you know, and those just kind of roll,” said Mike Siedlik, a member of Holy Ghost Parish. “With this one, you have time between the Stations to contemplate what the Lord went through.”
Siedlik, a seasoned walker despite knee problems, joined last year’s inaugural Way to pray, contemplate, talk to fellow pilgrims and “get a little closer to the Lord.”
“It wasn’t really a hard walk because with that many stops – I suppose each Station was only a mile, a mile and three-quarters apart – but it gave you more time to reflect.”
OFFERING UP THE WAY
Jim Daskiewicz, a member of St. Peter Parish in Omaha, participated in last year’s Way of the Cross to support a co-worker and friend, Tom, who was dying of cancer.
Daskiewicz didn’t expect to be able to complete the entire pilgrimage and thought maybe he would just do half.
“I was like, ‘You know, I don’t know if I can do the whole thing because I have problems with sore feet.’”
When he reached a halfway point, Daskiewicz said, he felt OK and decided to keep going. A few stations and several miles later, he figured he could make it to the end.
“So I ended up doing the whole route.”
Praying at each Station along the Way deepened his commitment, he said.
God gave him the strength to finish, he said, because he was offering up his Way of the Cross for his friend.
“For somebody who’s totally out of shape, who has sore feet, to be able to walk 15 miles like that, I was actually astounded that I was able to do it.”
“I was pretty sore the next day,” he said, “but I was able to do the whole thing.”
Soon after finishing the pilgrimage, Daskiewicz learned his friend had passed away, likely as Daskiewicz was walking and praying.
Jeff Palzer came up with the idea for the 15-mile Way of the Cross, inspired by longer, more rigorous pilgrimages in Europe.
Palzer proposed the walk to Father Anyanike Vitalis, his pastor at Our Lady of Lourdes-St. Adalbert Parish.
“He loved the idea and just said run with it,” Palzer said.
Father Vitalis prayed and walked with others for much of last year’s pilgrimage, before he had to break off for other Good Friday devotions.
Palzer promoted his plan to members of spiritual groups he was involved in, including a That Man Is You group at Our Lady of Lourdes-St. Adalbert and an Exodus 90 group. About 45 people participated in the inaugural Way of the Cross.
Once on the Way, participants tended to split into two groups, Palzer said. “There was one group that went really fast, and they were way ahead of us, and then there were the rest of us,” he laughed.
But for the most part, the pilgrims walked together.
Some people joined in for just a portion of the pilgrimage, especially the last leg of the journey, from St. Adalbert Church to nearby Our Lady of Lourdes. Palzer said he encourages people to walk the last segment of the Way if they have other commitments on Good Friday or are unable to walk the entire distance.
“We encourage people to come out and do what they can.”
REST, PRAYER, NEEDS
Palzer said people are welcome to jump in at any Station along the Way of the Cross or even pray and walk the route on another day.
On Good Friday, though, several of the churches will be open to rest and pray, and restrooms will be available.
Last year, pilgrims also made convenience store or restaurant stops to buy a drink or grab a small meal on the day of fasting and abstinence from meat.
Daskiewicz said the prayerfulness of the pilgrims impressed him. Most prayed using a pamphlet provided, which included the route and the Stations of the Cross by St. Alphonsus Ligouri. Some chose to pray their own prayers.
The Station stops at the many churches and two cemeteries “confirm that we have a rich Catholic heritage in Omaha,” Daskiewicz said.
“To be able to have that many churches and two cemeteries within 15 miles of walking, that’s pretty amazing.”
Want to go?
The Way of the Cross begins at 7 a.m. on Good Friday, April 7, at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, 2110 S. 32nd Ave. in Omaha, and is expected to end around 1 p.m. or 2 p.m.
Recommendations on what to bring:
- Good walking shoes
- A refillable water bottle
- A small stone for a blessing at the end of pilgrimage
- Cash or change for drinks or food along the Way
- A fully charged cell phone in case you need to call for a ride or in case of an emergency
- Weather-appropriate clothing and perhaps a small backpack to store extra layers
- Common sense and traffic awareness
Recommendations on what not to bring:
- Headphones or earbuds, which can be distracting and dangerous while walking along city streets
- Anything you can’t carry, push or pull for 15 miles
- Worries about time, so you can take as long as you need to walk and step inside a church to pray if it’s open
Additional information is available on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/OLLwayofthecross.