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Youth participants strong faith reflected in St. Anthonys event
The crucifixion of Jesus as presented by the seventh and eighth graders of St. Anthony’s School during annual Living Stations of the Cross on Good Friday. - photo by ROSE ALBANO RISSO

The role did not have any speaking part. But for 13-year-old Guillermo Nunez, being selected to play Jesus for the annual Living Stations of the Cross on Good Friday was a dream come true.

“He was very excited; his faith is very strong,” Barbara Nunez said about her son’s reaction when he was cast as Jesus in the deeply moving, meditative play version of the Stations of the Cross.

The St. Anthony’s School eighth grader said he really wanted this role because “(Jesus) really inspired me. He gave His life for us.”

It was his growing faith which led to his decision, with his parents’ encouragement, to transfer from public school to St. Anthony’s when he was in fifth grade at George McParland Elementary School.

Barbara Nunez said her son had been attending catechism classes at St. Anthony’s when he decided “he liked (the religious instruction) so much we transferred him here.”

“I like the teachers and students,” the oldest of three boys said about his school.

Guillermo was not the only one who was excited to play a major part in the Living Stations. Lanee Donatelli, who was picked to play the role of Mary, the mother of Jesus, was just as excited as Guillermo. Donatelli has long been inspired by “the rest of my family” who had played the role of Mary in the past, she said. So when their teacher, Nancy Hogle, who has been directing this prayerful Good Friday presentation for nearly two decades, asked for volunteers, Donatelli’s was one of 10 hands that were raised.

“So we had a drawing from the 10 who raised their hands and then I got picked!” Donatelli said.

Since the Living Stations was introduced by former pastor, Father Lawrence McGovern (now a monsignor), the deeply moving presentation has become an intrical part of Good Friday services at St. Anthony’s. Many of those attending the standing-room-only program make the students’ play stay on for the traditional Good Friday worship which is highlighted by the reading of the Word, followed by the veneration of the cross and communion service.

Hogle said Monsignor McGovern started holding the Living Stations of the Cross while he was at Annunciation parish in Stockton, and continued doing it when he was transferred to Presentation Church, also in Stockton.

The religious play is a project of the seventh and eighth graders of St. Anthony’s School; however, the major roles are assigned by those in the eighth grade. Playing the main cast this year, and their respective roles, are Brian Andrews (Pontius Pilate); Izick Hernandez, Joshua Vargas, Leo Yalung, Rafael Ugarte and Chris Prestifilippo (soldiers); David Tolbert (Simon); Suzanna Saldate (Veronica); Hannah Homen, Angelique Cardoza, Kristy Mathew and Alyssa Telles (the women of Jerusalem). Narrators were Alyssa Gonigan, Mikaela Morse, Jessica Compartore and Spencer Hulsebosch.