Students at Kennewick Catholic school bring Easter story to life

By Loretto J. Hulse, Tri-City HeraldMarch 29, 2013 

Daniel Kruschke let out a whoop of joy when chosen to play the part of Jesus Christ in his school play about the crucifixion.

He attends St. Joseph's Catholic School in Kennewick, where fifth-graders have enacted the stations of the cross on Good Friday since the early 1990s.

The 11-year-old said he's always wanted to play the part of Jesus and when his name was drawn for the part, "I shouted, 'Yes!' "

Depicting Jesus in the play really brought the story of the crucifixion to life for him.

"It makes everything that happened more real. It's not a story. I understand more what happened now that we've done this," said Daniel, the son of Teresa and Steve Kruschke of Pasco.

Good Friday services generally are solemn because it's the day Jesus Christ died on the cross. Christians believe Jesus was crucified on Good Friday and resurrected on Easter Sunday.

"It's serious because of the subject, Christ's death, but with 10- and 11-year-olds involved there's bound to be some light moments too," said Dolores Stairet, fifth-grade teacher at St. Joe's.

Since a nun from the church began the tradition decades ago, every Good Friday the fifth-grade class brings to life the 14 stations of the cross for schoolmates, parents and other members of the church. They still use the nun's script and costumes from years past.

Each of the stations depicts an event leading up to Christ's crucifixion or an event that happened on Christ's trek through Jerusalem, carrying the cross, to Calvary, where he died.

"The play isn't entertainment, it's a teaching tool," Stairet said. "It's part of our faith."

All 30 members of Stairet's class were involved in the play. Some were actors who mimed their parts, others read the script and prayers for each station, others had supporting roles, like the three weeping women at the gate of the city.

Kim Sheldon of Kennewick came Friday to see the play and said of the dozen or so she's seen, this year's "was one of the better ones. They spoke very well."

Tyler Jilek, 11, who read the opening and closing prayers and the script for the 14th station, said participating in the play makes Easter more real. "You get an idea of what it looked like," he said. He's the son of Doreen and Patrick Jilek of Kennewick.

Natalie James, 11, has had her heart set on playing Veronica, who is in the sixth station, for years.

"If I had to pick a part to play it would be Veronica. And then my name was drawn, it was like a sign from God," she said.

Natalie explained her part, saying, Veronica "takes off her veil and wipes the blood and sweat from Jesus' face."

Lifting the veil hiding her blonde tresses and flipping it over, she showed the face of Jesus painted on the underside.

"That's what happened -- his face appeared like a picture on her veil," said Natalie, the daughter of Nancy James and Tom James, both of Kennewick.

Shirley and T. Holt of Kennewick, parishioners who watched the play, said seeing the kids' re-enactment was very moving.

"I've seen adults do this, but these kids, they did a great job. They brought tears out of this old man," said T. Holt.

"They made it real. Seeing the stations of the cross like this gives you an idea what Good Friday is all about and gets you thinking about what Jesus did that day," said Shirley Holt.

Donna Yehl of Benton City agreed, saying, "It's almost like you're looking at the events through the eyes of the people. You seem to know their feelings and how they relate to us today."

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