When Princeton resident Ray Wadsworth and his wife, Jacqueline, were on vacation in Italy about 20 years ago, they stopped on Good Friday to witness a dramatic reenactment of the Stations of the Cross at a church on top of a mountain in a small town. The experience left a deep impression on Wadsworth, who has lived in Princeton for about 60 years, and is the former owner of the Flower Market and Wadsworth Bakery.
After he returned home from Italy, Wadsworth says, he thought to himself, “We should do this in Princeton.” His dream came true about 11 years ago, when Wadsworth, a member of St. Paul’s Church on Nassau Street, worked with Monsignor Nolan to stage the first reenactment. Wadsworth has played the role of Jesus each year.
The annual event takes place this year on Friday, April 10, at 7 p.m. Wadsworth says he must go to Princeton Borough every year to get permission to close off the streets on the route — Moran Avenue, and Spruce and Moore streets. The free event draws an average of about 300 onlookers a year, and Wadsworth says everyone is welcome, no matter what their religious affiliation.
For those less versed in the Bible, the Stations of the Cross represents Jesus’ journey from the first station, where he is condemned to carry the cross, through to the 14th station, where he is laid in the tomb. The St. Paul’s reenactment, says Wadsworth, begins in the church, then moves out of the church, through the parking lot, then down Moran Avenue, where Wadsworth is joined by soldiers, one of whom helps him carry the cross.
Other participants include the ladies of Jerusalem at the eighth station, who wipe the face of Jesus. “I had a heck of a time finding a cloth for that,” says Wadsworth. “It’s supposed to have the image of Jesus on it. But Monsignor Nolan and I were on a trip to Israel in 2000 and he found one in a little store. ‘I have a present for you,’ he said.” The procession continues on to Spruce Street, then to Moore, to the 10th station, where Jesus is stripped of his clothes. “Last year it was so cold!” says Wadsworth, who does indeed strip his clothes right down to the classic loincloth, which Wadsworth’s wife made for him. Other reenactors who participate every year include Jessie Mangone as the Blessed Mother and Rosemary Shangle, who portrays Veronica.
At the 12th station, Jesus dies on the cross, and back at the church, at the 13th station, Jesus is taken down from the cross and put onto a gurney. Wadsworth says the gurney is then wheeled into the church to perform the 14th station. He says all the lights go out and he silently slips away, creeping into the back of the sanctuary. When the lights come up, there is simply a cross on the gurney, which participants can them come up and touch. Wadsworth says that through the years, what has been very moving for him is to see all the children who come up and touch the cross.
Now going on his 11th year, Wadsworth has become something of an expert. After carrying a cross made from four by fours, he had a new lighter one made, which weighs in at just about 20 pounds. A bit less of a cross to bear.
Stations of the Cross Reenactment, St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Church, 214 Nassau Street, Princeton. Friday, April 10, 7 p.m. Annual Good Friday reenactment of the Stations of the Cross. Free. All are welcome. The event begins in the church, then follows a route through the immediate neighborhood, returning to the church. 609-924-1743 or www.stpaulsprinceton.org.