Gainesville — Braving the midday sun and heavy traffic ahead of the holiday weekend, Sister Ana Galvan, of St. Augustine Church, and Melissa Likamwa, a music education major at the University of Florida, painted the Stations of the Cross on a wall that borders a north-south corridor near the university.
“It’s a way to remind people that Easter comes with the passion,” said Galvan, who wore a bright-white habit. “It’s a way to remind them that first we need to see the whole journey of Jesus to the cross before we celebrate Easter.”
The temporary mural, on a wall that runs along SW 34th Street — a wall typically given over to graffiti of every kind — is a project of Catholic Gators, a student group. Their painting is an innovative interpretation of the Good Friday memorial, also known as the Way of Sorrows, that first entered the practices of Western churches more than 500 years ago.
The stations, which typically number 14, depict Jesus’ condemnation to die and his experiences — including encounters with the faithful — as he carries his cross, sometimes with assistance, through a busy, public thoroughfare, to the place of his crucifixion, where he is stripped, nailed to the cross, dies and is removed from the cross and placed in a tomb.
The appearance along the busy roadside of the petite nun, her hands covered in paint — as she and several students painstakingly painted the dramatic scenes — brought to mind the commentary by the noted Scottish clergyman and WWI veteran, George MacLeod:
“Jesus was not crucified in a cathedral between two candles, but on a cross between two thieves; on the town’s garbage heap; at a crossroad so cosmopolitan that they had to write His title in Hebrew and Latin and Greek… at the kind of place where cynics talk smut and thieves curse and soldiers gamble. Because that is where he died and that is what he died for and that is what he died about, that is where churchman ought to be and what churchmen ought to be about.”
In regards to the 81 degree temperature on Friday, Likamwa said the weather was a welcomed change from the downpour on Good Friday in 2016, which had prevented the student group from continuing that year what, in 2015 — the first year they painted the mural — they expected to become an annual tradition for their art ministry.
“It’s just a good way to evangelize,” Likamway said. “Everyone sees it while they are driving past; at least they think about it for a second.”