Kristen L. Byrd, Special to The Catholic Virginian
Two decades ago, Nan Colvin was walking the Via Dolorosa, the path believed to be the same one Jesus took on the way to his crucifixion, in Jerusalem with her older brother and sister, who are now deceased. The path includes Stations of the Cross that end inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Seeing images of Christ’s journey while walking in his very footsteps was a deeply impactful and spiritual experience for Colvin. Since then, she has visited other outdoor Stations of the Cross and has dreamed of building one at her own parish, St. Theresa, Farmville, where she is head of the landscape committee. Nearly 82 years old, she decided it was now or never to bring her vision to life.
“I don’t think any Christian can go to Israel and not be in awe of walking where Jesus walked,” Colvin said. “It changed my entire outlook on reading the Scriptures and ‘being present.’”
In early 2018, Colvin approached Father Stefan Migac, St. Theresa pastor, with her idea. He immediately supported the project, as did the parish. Colvin meticulously designed the Stations of the Cross over several months and personally chose nearly every element, from artwork to slate chips, even traveling to different states to find the right material. For her, it was a labor of love, but it was far from a solo project.
Dozens of parishioners dug ditches, hauled stones, spread soil, put up fences, planted flowers and performed a multitude of other tasks to help bring the project to fruition.
The 300-foot path begins at the front entrance of the church and winds to the back of the property, with slate stepping stones proclaiming “The Way of the Cross” guiding visitors. Four benches, made by scouts from the St. Theresa-sponsored troop as an Eagle Scout project, will be included along the path later this summer. Each 12-by-14 inch station features an artistic representation of Jesus’ journey and includes the number and a description of the events. The stations are on bronze plaques and are mounted on wooden crèches handmade by parishioner Mark French.
Like Colvin, French has also been a member of St. Theresa for more than 30 years and has visited outdoor Stations of the Cross in Stations of the Cross line a 300-foot path that begins at the entrance of St. Theresa Church, Farmville, and winds to the back of the parish property. Parishioners volunteered to do the landscaping. other countries. He was eager to volunteer for this project.
“I really feel that the stations help to keep me centered and hold fast to the root of our faith: the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ,” he said. “Being involved in this has rewarded me personally far more than the effort that I put into the construction. I have built and constructed many large and small things, but none as great and rewarding as these Stations of the Cross.”
Retired USDA conservationist Dennis Jones utilized his expertise in soil and water to build the stations’ drainage system. Sole parish employee Carol Beattie made phone calls, paid bills and kept records throughout the construction. Other parishioners donated fences, plants, landscaping equipment and time.
On Sunday, June 9, the Stations of the Cross were blessed during an outdoor ceremony, despite the rain.
“It was a great idea and it looks amazing now,” Father Migac said. “I hope that the stations will invite parishioners of all ages to meditate on the great love that Christ has for us which is shown to us on the cross.”
It took about 18 months between design and execution for the decades-long dream to come true. While it started with Colvin, she said it would not have been possible without the support of the entire parish community.
“We had the prayers and encouragement of many and direct help from about 30,” Colvin said. “For me, this was one of the best and most amazing things about the project. To learn of the generosity, talents, knowledge and willingness to give with a smile of so many of the parishioners allowed me to see God working in the people and in the Church.”