MILWAUKEE — Waking up high school age children on a Saturday can be a “risky” venture. Waking up high school age children early on a Saturday morning to pray has a higher degree of difficulty. Rousing these teen charges to travel areas of central city Milwaukee to recite the rosary – has met with great success.

School Sister of Notre Dame Jean Ellman points out a landmark while taking teens from St. Louis Parish, Caledonia, on the Jan. 21 city Stations of the Cross in Milwaukee. (Catholic Herald photo by Rory Gillespie)

Participating in the “Stations of the Cross … in the city of Milwaukee” on Saturday, Jan. 21, met with approval by the confirmation class of Caledonia’s St. Louis Parish. The urban stations were part of their confirmation retreat experience.

The Stations of the Cross are transposed from the streets of Jerusalem to sites around Milwaukee.

“Helping people, including myself to see how Jesus is present in the world today, both in the suffering part and in the resurrection, is very rewarding,” said Urban Plunge director, School Sister of Notre Dame Jean Ellman, former principal at Notre Dame Middle School, Milwaukee. “It is comforting to know that there are people today that are dedicated to making the world better. There are people that are concerned and caring for our brothers and sisters and connecting with the poor. We must be one with them and sometimes we don’t even see them.”

Sr. Jean’s Urban Plunge is one of the many ministries of the Casa Romero Renewal Center. She’s taken about 15 groups on urban tours of the city, but the group from Caledonia included a new twist.

A portion of the Plunge led them through the Stations of the Cross. But, rather than walking around a church, or even an outdoor session, these participants are loaded into cars and steered to the Milwaukee County Courthouse downtown where the first Station is conducted. The other 13 Stations range from Sojourner Family Peace Center to Calvary Cemetery.

These city Stations follow the format of prayer and reflection. The focus though is on how these modern locations interact with our lives.[su_pullquote align=”right”]Stations of the Urban Plunge
First Station: Jesus is condemned to death. Location: The Courthouse
Second Station: Jesus takes up his cross. Location: The 
Milwaukee County Jail
Third Station: Jesus falls for the first time. Location: St. Ben’s 
Community Meal
Fourth Station: Jesus meets his Mother. Location: Joy House
Fifth Station: Jesus is helped by Simon the Cyrene to carry his cross. Location: Pathfinders Emergency Youth Center
Sixth Station: Veronica wipes the face of Jesus. Location: YWCA and Benedict Center (3rd and Reservoir), Martin Luther King 
Memorial (3rd and Vine)
Seventh Station: Jesus falls for the second time*
Eighth Station: Jesus meets the women of Jerusalem. Location: Sojourner Family Peace Center
Ninth Station: Jesus falls for the third time*
10th Station: Jesus is stripped of his garments. Location: Legal Services for Immigrants – Catholic Charities
11th Station: Jesus is nailed to the cross. Location: Joshua 
Glover Mural
12th Station: Jesus dies on the cross. Location: Red Arrow Park
13th Station: Jesus is taken down from the cross*
14th Station: Jesus is laid in the tomb. Location: Calvary Cemetery *Some stations do not have an alternative urban location [/su_pullquote]

Here is the opening reflection:

“The first Station: Jesus Is Condemned to Death

Reflection: As we follow Jesus in this final surrender, and contemplate with reverence each place along the way, as he is broken and given for us, we must ask ourselves:

 Where do we stand? Do we stand, with Jesus, on the side of the poor, the powerless, the condemned of our world?

• Or do we stand on the side of the rich, the powerful and the judges of others?”

This is our first year working with the program,” said Colleen Rooney, St. Louis director of youth faith formation. “We have a smaller confirmation group this year and rather than a usual retreat where we would go into seclusion and pray, we are trying the Urban Plunge where we go out and experience our faith in a new way.”

Confirmation students from St. Louis Parish, Caledonia, are pictured outside St. Ben’s Community Meal, the “third Station,” during their urban Stations of the Cross experience, Saturday, Jan. 21. Pictured are Arturo Carrillo, front row left to right, Ginger Rohde, Tori Lara and Urban Plunge coordinator, Sr. Jean Ellman; second row: Kim Kortendick, George Meyer, and St. Louis director of youth formation, Colleen Rooney; third row: Taylor Schneider, Lincoln Bargendes, Eric Sorenson and Alec Dam. (Catholic Herald photo by Rory Gillespie)

Part of the reflection of the second Station: Jesus Takes Up His Cross is conducted while contemplating the Milwaukee County Jail. The reflection calls out that, “2.7 million children in the U.S. have an incarcerated parent. These children bear the cross of growing up in homes where they won’t experience the presence, love and support of both their parents.”

Alec Dam, one of the confirmation class participants, appreciated the experience. The group slept overnight at the Casa Romero Center at South Fourth and West Bruce, then ventured to have breakfast with residents of the Guest House facility for homeless men at North 13th Street and West McKinley Avenue.

“For sure, this is good experience,” Dam said. “We get to look at the city from a different aspect. With the stations we are able to read, pray and connect with our faith. I knew the city somewhat, but this is a cool way to explore.”

Casa Romero Renewal Center is an urban, multicultural, and bilingual spirituality center in the heart of the Latino community. Its programs and retreats offer formation and renewal for youth and adults, strengthen families and build community.

The Urban Plunge is an opportunity to gain first-hand knowledge of the problems and resources in the city of Milwaukee and to interact with people experiencing challenges in their life such as poverty and homelessness.