PLEASANT POINT — A Lakota version of the Stations of the Cross is being shared on the Thursdays of Lent at 3 p.m., and all are invited to participate through the use of Zoom. The stations, a popular Lenten devotion dating back centuries, take the Christian faithful on a spiritual pilgrimage through Christ’s Passion and death.
Pat Phillips, one of the organizers of the Lakota version of the Stations of the Cross, says it is a devotion that has been particularly popular among the Native American community, at least as she has seen among the Passamaquoddy people of Sipayik.
“I believe the stations are especially meaningful to the Native community because of all the suffering the Native community has endured,” she said. “Moreover, perhaps this particular format is more meaningful because it includes Native images and prayers. As we know, many missionaries of the past forced indigenous people to abandon their traditions if they were to become Catholic.”
According to Phillips, the Stations of the Cross begin with an honor or healing song, “Hen Nu,” which is often used at funerals. The reading of each station is then followed by a challenge to the participants and a period of quiet with only the beat of a drum.
“We begin and end with drum and song,” she said. “The beat of the hand drum reminds us of the Native heartbeat. Then, between each station, we do something else which is unique. We pray the Hail Mary and the Our Father in Passamaquoddy (https://portlanddiocese.org/sites/default/files/files/Prayers%20in%20Passamaquoddy.pdf).”
The Stations conclude with a passage from the Book of Joel: “And afterward, I will pour out My Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.” That is followed by the closing song “Nkistahatoman Nuhsusqan Sesuhs” (“I have decided to follow Jesus”), sung in Passamaquoddy (https://portlanddiocese.org/sites/default/files/files/Nkistahatoman_Nuhsusqan_Sesuhs.pdf) and English.
Phillips says they discovered the Lakota versions of the Stations of the Cross through attending the Tekakwitha Conference following the canonization of St. Kateri Tekakwitha, patron of the parish in Calais whose congregation includes members of the Passamaquoddy Tribe. She says for the Lakota, each heroic deed earns one’s right to wear an eagle feather to commemorate it. As a result, each station shown in the booklet used in the praying the Stations of the Cross displays an accumulated number of eagle feathers commemorating the great deeds Christ did on our behalf.
When the Stations of the Cross were prayed in person, Phillips says she also displayed prints of four icons from Father John Giuliani’s “The Crow Series.” The series depicts Mary’s story using the likenesses of the Crow people, but the last four images reflect Jesus’ final walk. She says the prints were given to her by MaryAnn Sheridan, who used to teach Indian Studies at Saint Joseph’s College of Maine.
“I had these framed, and we used to set them before the altar with candles so that we could gaze on them as we prayed, that is, if one’s eyes did not wander out over the water which is so beautifully displayed behind the altar,” said Pat.
Although she looks forward to again being able to join together in person to pray the Stations of the Cross, she says the virtual presentations may have led to a new opportunity by allowing people from all parts of the state to participate.
“Perhaps, in just a small way, Zoom has empowered us to create a new way forward, with a new sense of community. Together we can embrace and celebrate our rich diversity.”
The Stations of the Cross are sponsored by St. Ann’s Pleasant Point Kateri Circle and St. Kateri Tekakwitha Parish. In addition to Pat Phillips, they are being led by Adele Moore, Ginny Mitchell, Barbara Paul, and Lena Jackson.
If you would like to participate in the Lakota version of the Stations of the Cross, email firstname.lastname@example.org.