The most popular time to visit is during Holy Week, with 8,000 to 10,000 visitors on Good Friday alone. Some arrive by the busload, others on a family outing. All experience the serenity of the half-mile path that follows the last hours of Christ’s time on Earth, as the non-denominational Shrine of Christ’s Passion takes them on Christ’s journey from the Last Supper through the Stations of the Cross to the Ascension.
Press a button at each of the stations along the self-guided paved pathway to hear about the scene in front of you, with an added short commentary on how it fits into our everyday lives, narrated by former Chicago news anchor Bill Kurtis. The audio for each scene lasts only several seconds, leaving you time to reflect before moving on to the next station.
The winding pathway, designed to look as much like the Holy Land as possible, with rocks brought in from Wisconsin and trees close to the color of olive trees, begins with Jesus sitting at the Last Supper table. The other seats are empty, but you are invited to sit, as though you are one of Christ’s disciples.
Between stations you’ll hear music, music that changes along the way, mostly instrumental, some soft stringed tones, some with a rhythmic drum beat, all setting the mood.
Stop into the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus finds his disciples asleep.
Continue the journey in which Jesus is brought to trial before Pontius Pilate and then is burdened with the cross upon which he will be crucified. Each of the stations is in the form of bronze statues, including Christ falling three times under the weight of the cross, the heavy cross that some say represents the sins of man for which Christ died in redemption.
At the far end of the path you reach Calvary, where Jesus dies on the cross.
A short distance away is the tomb that you are invited into, the tomb empty following Christ’s resurrection. Cloths representing the shroud that Jesus had been wrapped in are folded and setting inside.
The last stop on the path represents the Ascension, Jesus rising into Heaven.
Although Holy Week is a fitting time to visit The Shrine of Christ’s Passion, it is open year-round, weather permitting. The wide path is handicapped accessible, and there are plenty of opportunities to sit for those who have trouble walking long distances. However, the disabled may call in advance to make reservations to ride the path in a golf cart.
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Be sure to see the 37’8” statue of Our Lady of the New Millennium north of the gift shop, a dream of Carl Demma’s since he was nine years old, when he decided he wanted to build a statue of the Virgin Mary “big enough for all of Chicago to see her.” He realized his childhood dream, or close to it, with the Our Lady of the New Millennium statue that he had built. The statue was moved from parish to parish within the Archdiocese of Chicago and was taken to St. Louis, where it was blessed by Pope John Paul II. The Shrine of Christ’s Passion is now the statue’s permanent home.
The Shrine of Christ’s Passion, located at 10630 Wicker Avenue (U.S. Route 41) in Saint John, Indiana, founded by Frank and Shirley Schilling, is free to the public and funded solely through donations and the on-site religious gift shop. Check the web site for further details.
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