WILMINGTON — Throughout history, Catholics have spent Lent with the Stations of the Cross. The Stations devotion has been passed along, often through writing and live performances. Today, however, the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection is accessible in ways unimaginable just a generation ago – through QR codes and a smartphone application.
As is often the case, young people are leading the way with the electronic Stations of the Cross. Students at Padua Academy now have another use for their ever-present technology, with information about and reflections on the Stations available with a scan by a smartphone.
Karen Duppel, a theology teacher at Padua, said she and her colleagues thought the app would be another way for the students to connect with their faith.
“Usually the only interaction we have with the Stations of the Cross is the day before we leave for Easter break,” Duppel said. “We do a live Stations, a shadow Stations of the Cross. So we thought this was another way to get the girls to reflect on the Stations and apply them to their lives.”
The electronic Stations are produced by Busted Halo, a website run by the Paulist Fathers that helps with answers for people who have questions about the faith. The Stations are hanging up in a hallway at Padua, each with a QR (quick response) code. When the code is scanned, the video-sharing website YouTube launches, and a quick video about that Station plays.
“The main theme throughout the Stations is being kingdom builders and how we can always continue to build God’s kingdom here on Earth and the different ways the Stations challenge us to do that in our everyday lives,” Duppel said.
Those whose phones are not equipped with a QR reader can view the videos on their laptop on the Busted Halo website, she added.
The Stations went up on Ash Wednesday, but the real emphasis began the last week of March. Each of the girls at Padua will have the chance to use the electronic Stations. Freshmen through juniors will have to answer personal-reflection questions based on the videos. For example, for the fourth Station, when Jesus meets his mother, the students will have to answer, “What is the hardest part of being a faith-filled teenager today? What keeps you from saying ‘yes’ to God in your daily life?” A few juniors said they are excited with what they have seen so far.
Helena Bush, a member of St. Joseph Parish in Middletown and a graduate of Christ the Teacher Catholic School in Glasgow, said the reflections are not something she would ordinarily do, “but it’s not something that I look at as a struggle or it’s something annoying that I have to do. It’s good to reflect on it, and it opens your mind more to things you didn’t even think about before.”
The material relates the Stations to contemporary issues, which appeals to Isabel DiGiovanni, a graduate of St. Mary Magdalen School and a member of that parish.
“Growing up in Catholic schools, we’ve always read about Jesus and reflected on his life and the struggles he had to face. Now we’re reflecting on our own struggles and how they can relate to the Stations.”
Abigail Strusowski said she remembers going to the chapel at Christ the Teacher for the more traditional presentation of the Stations. She likes the idea of using her technology.
“It’s really fun this year because we actually get to use technology and get to access it in ways that we understand it as opposed to laying it out in front of us or just getting read to in class,” said Strusowski, a member of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Bear. “This is a fun and cool way to do that.”
As for the seniors, their assignment is a bit different. Duppel said they will create a fake Twitter account for someone involved in the Stations. The students will tweet about what those people might have been experiencing.
“They have to choose who they are in the story. Are they a Roman soldier, are they an innocent bystander, are they a follower of Jesus? After each Station, depending on who their character is in the story, they have to tweet what they’re seeing. They’ll be put into the story of the Stations a little more deeply.
“Instead of just reflecting on it in our own lives, what would it have been like if they were there?” she said.
Twitter is something most of the girls are comfortable using, and Duppel often challenges them to put their thoughts on social media for activities they do in class. “That’s how they spread the word, through social media. So put some good news on there.”