Conducted by a Franciscan friar


At Gethsemane


            The Way of the Cross, “Via Crucis” in Latin, also called The Sorrowful Way, or “Via Dolorosa”, commemorates the way that Jesus trod in Jerusalem, from the Garden of Gethsemane or from the court of Pontius Pilate, to the hill of Golgotha, which was then just outside the city walls.


            The Stations of the Cross, as we know them today, are fourteen stops along the Way of the Cross that are clearly marked in the streets of Jerusalem. The last five are enclosed in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The fourteen stations erected in most Catholic churches throughout the world and here at “Maryfields” are those commemorated since the Seventeenth Century in Jerusalem.


            In 1999, “Maryfields” Stations of the Cross were listed as part of the Heritage of Campbelltown and we welcome you on this Heritage Tour to join us now in walking the Way of the Cross.


            Directly behind us is a statue of Christ with an angel, in a setting depicting the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed earnestly before his Passion. Luke’s gospel (22:43) says: “Then an angel appeared to him, coming from heaven to give him strength.” Thus comforted and strengthened to do his Father's will, Jesus met a crowd of soldiers led by his betrayer and so began his Way of the Cross.


At the First Station: Jesus before Pilate


            When we go into the history of the origins of the Way of the Cross in Jerusalem, we cannot say that an eyewitness who followed Jesus from Pilate’s palace to Calvary would affirm that all the events commemorated by the fourteen stations actually took place on the spots marked in the streets of Jerusalem. We are not dealing with that kind of historical veracity. The Way of the Cross is based mainly on the gospel accounts and on local traditions in Jerusalem, but it has been greatly influenced by the prayerful meditation of spiritual giants, men and women saints, as well as of ordinary faithful Christians in Europe.


            This land is under the Tharawal Local Aboriginal Land Council.


            In Colonial times, in 1823, a grant of Crown Land, which included the present property of “Maryfields”, was made to Patrick Cullen.  He in turn sold the land to John Terry Hughes who later sold the land to John Rudd.  In 1850, John Rudd divided his property and sold the present property of “Maryfields” to James Rudd about the year 1850.  Sarah Mary Keane, a granddaughter of James Rudd inherited the land.  She was a lady well known for her support of charitable causes, and in 1930 gave the land by deed to the Franciscan Order.


            At that time, the main building on the land was the old farmhouse, which has since been demolished.


            The grounds were more or less as they are now.  There was and still is a small creek flowing through the south-western part of the property that over the years has been dammed for agricultural purposes. Since 1930, an extensive tree-planting program has provided a wonderful habitat for birds around the dams.  Over a hundred different species have been sighted here at “Maryfields”.


At the Second Station: Jesus carries the cross


            Christians in Jerusalem and from elsewhere venerated the places of Jesus’ death and resurrection from the earliest times, especially after the Edict of the Roman Emperor Constantine in the year 313. A pilgrim from Bordeaux, France, in 333, and the Spanish lady Etheria later in that century, both described the ways in which Christians venerated the places made holy by the suffering and death of Jesus, especially Calvary and the Holy Sepulchre of his burial and resurrection.


            Some of the stations have suffered damage by vandals.  They were restored and all the stations were renovated under the direction of Jacek Luszczyk, Secular Franciscan and a professional restorer of heritage buildings. Jacek attended the Stations many time in the past as a participant and volunteered his time to restore them. His excellent work may be seen as we walk along. Fr Carl Schafer OFM has dedicated a page on his web site, SFO FILES, as a tribute to Jacek.


At the Third Station: Jesus falls the first time


            In the first ten centuries, there was no question of venerating the Way of the Cross as we know it, either in Jerusalem or anywhere else. Our Way of the Cross evolved slowly out of a patchwork combination of veneration of the holy places in Jerusalem and various forms of devotion to the Passion of Jesus in Europe which pilgrims carried over to Jerusalem.


            The Rudd family were agriculturists and the Franciscan friars continued this tradition since the first community began here in 1934.  In 1935, the foundation stone for the Franciscan Novitiate was laid. Since that time many young men began their Franciscan life here.  The friars worked the land, planted trees, and tended gardens on the property and the friar priests assisted the Catholic life of many people in nearby parishes.


At the Fourth Station: Jesus meets his mother


            From the Eleventh Century, Christians in Europe venerated the suffering and death of Jesus and accepted their own sufferings as Jesus had accepted his. Great saints and mystics, such as St Bernard of Clairvaux, promoted this devotion. Some of the Stations originate from their meditations on the Passion, for example, this Fourth Station, Jesus meets his mother, and also the Sixth Station, Veronica wipes the face of Jesus. St Francis of Assisi carried the wounds of Jesus in his own body and the Franciscans promoted everywhere the veneration of the suffering of Jesus.


At the Fifth Station: Jesus is helped by the Cyrenean


            Christian pilgrims flocked to Jerusalem in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries, while the Crusaders made the place safe enough for pilgrimages. There is mention in 1228 of the way trodden by Jesus on his way to Calvary. The Franciscans were installed in Jerusalem and in other holy places in 1333, and have remained there ever since. In the 1400s, they made visits to the Holy Places connected with the suffering and death of Jesus. They were similar to our Stations of the Cross. They had evolved from the places venerated by Christians from the earliest times. So the Franciscans venerated many of the spots commemorated in our present Way of the Cross, but in reverse order, from Calvary to Pilate’s palace.


            The plan of the Stations at “Maryfields” came from two groups: one a group of Catholic laymen led by Dr Harold Norrie; the other, the Franciscan friars at “Maryfields”, particularly Fr Bernard Nolan OFM.


            Dr Norrie had seen outdoor Stations of the Cross in California. On his return to Australia, he wanted to have something similar here.  He formed a group of friends who had three objectives: (a) to create a sense of religious pilgrimage outside the city area of Sydney; (b) near enough to the city to make the Stations accessible to people of limited means, and (c) to find a location which would harmonize with the solemnity of the occasion.


            At the same time, Fr Bernard Nolan was seeking a way to counterbalance the tendency in Australian society, to secularize Holy Week.  “Maryfields” was discovered by one of Dr Norrie's group on a visit to a Franciscan novice at the newly opened novitiate.


At the Sixth Station: Veronica wipes the face of Jesus


            As we noted already, this Station originated from the meditations of saintly men and women on the Passion of Jesus. You will notice that the most touching, most compassionate Stations often derive from the piety of Christian people over a long period of time.


            There was a popular devotion in Europe to sorrowful processions during which the faithful moved from one church to another, sometimes to nine churches, and meditated on the painful progress of Jesus carrying his cross, uniting their own sufferings to his.


At the Seventh Station: Jesus falls the second time


            Three of the present Stations derive directly from a widespread European veneration of seven or more falls of Jesus under his cross on the way to Calvary. These falls are not mentioned in the gospels but are the product of prayerful and compassionate meditation on the Saviour’s sufferings.


            The first Way of the Cross was organized for Good Friday, 1936.  Fourteen wooden crosses were placed along a path through the fields.  Gethsemane was located on one side of the little creek and the Stations across the creek, recalling the words from John's Gospel: "Jesus went over the brook Kedron, where there was a garden (i.e. an olive grove) which he entered" (John 18:1).  The Stations are positioned in an ever mounting path to Calvary and the thirteenth and fourteenth Stations are down a slope from Calvary.  Thus the impression is created of climbing the hill of Calvary and coming down from the hill.


            From 1936 to 1988, the friars hosted the Stations of the Cross every Good Friday.


At the Eighth Station: Jesus speaks to the women of Jerusalem


            Most of these Stations, including this one, are based on the gospel texts that describe the way that Jesus took to Calvary. Luke’s gospel reads: “Large numbers of people followed him, and of women too, who mourned and lamented for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children” (23:27-28), and there follows his terrible prediction that was verified in the Romans’ destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70 A.D.


         Until 1963, the railway ran from Campbelltown to Camden, and here at “Maryfields” there was a stop called Rudds Gate which was later renamed Maryfields when it was lengthened and strengthened to accommodate the crowds on Good Friday. One year, the platform collapsed because of the weight of the crowd. You will notice a palm-lined path which leads up to the site of the old Maryfields station, now long gone to make room for the widened Narellan Road.


At the Ninth Station: Jesus falls the third time


         While the veneration of the falls of Jesus and the devotion of sorrowful processions were popular in Europe, yet another practice developed, namely, veneration of the stops that Jesus made on his way to Calvary. These stations commenced in some places with Jesus saying farewell to his mother, in other places they began with the Last Supper, or in the Garden of Gethsemane, or at the palace of Pilate.


         The Way of the Cross as we have it is therefore the product of a long evolution of popular piety in Europe over a period of a thousand years, and transported to Jerusalem by European pilgrims. In the Seventeenth Century, the Franciscan adapted their visits to the Holy Places connected with the suffering and death of Jesus to the European Way of the Cross. And so we arrive at our present-day Way of the Cross, and this one at “Maryfields”.


         Artists and manufacturers of statuary were consulted about the best material to be used and designs were chosen. A set of three-dimensional terra cotta stations was ordered from France at a total cost of 3,000 pounds.  Catholic families contributed to the cost and these donors are recorded on the back of the pedestals.


At the Tenth Station: Jesus is stripped


         Many of the faithful in every country had a great desire to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, but relatively few could make it. Since the end of the Fifteenth Century, “spiritual pilgrimages” to Jerusalem became popular and people at home were assured that they enjoyed the same spiritual advantages as those who actually reached Jerusalem.


         The statues are placed on brick pedestals (rendered to look like stones), high enough to be seen above a crowd.  On each alternate pedestal there is a cast cement plaque of the Paschal Lamb and another showing a chalice with grapes and wheat.  The Paschal Lamb is a symbol of Christ, the Lamb of God, slain for us. The symbols of grapes and wheat represent the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Christ, the fruit of his saving death on Calvary.


At the Eleventh Station: Jesus is nailed to the cross


         Since the Seventeenth Century, the fourteen Stations of the Cross as we know them had been reproduced in Franciscan churches throughout Spain, from where it spread through Sardinia, then through Italy. Early in the Eighteenth Century, it spread to churches outside the Franciscan Order, largely due to the preaching of the Franciscan friar St Leonard of Port Maurice, who died in 1751, a year after he had erected the Stations of the Cross in the Colosseum in Rome, at the request of Benedict XIV.


         Today, the Stations of the Cross have been erected in practically every Catholic church throughout the world. They have been erected also in the open air in many sanctuaries, as here at “Maryfields”.


         On the second occasion, Good Friday 1937, a crowd of 20,000 attended the Stations.  His Excellency, the Apostolic Delegate, Archbishop Panico gave an address and pronounced the Blessing.  Every year, except during World War II, thousands of people traveled by special trains, buses and cars from Wollongong, Port Kembla, Corrimal, Bulli and from around Sydney.


         Each Good Friday up until the 1988, crowds of over 10,000 and up to 37,000, came regularly to attend the Stations of the Cross.  Gradually the numbers dwindled owing to several factors:  (1) the convenient train service to Maryfields ended in 1963 with the building of the new Narellan Road; (2) finding sufficient space for the hundreds of cars proved a problem; and (3) in 1983, the Franciscan novitiate moved to Victoria, which meant that the burden of preparing the grounds for the Stations of the Cross and cleaning up after the event, fell on the few friars who remained.  In 1990, after the Stations had been cancelled for the previous two years because of bad weather, the Stations were no longer held on Good Friday.


At the Twelfth Station: Jesus dies on the cross


         In 1975, Pope John Paul II introduced a Way of the Cross that is based totally on the gospel accounts of the suffering and death of Jesus. He replaced those Stations that had developed in Europe out of prayerful meditation without a scriptural basis, namely, the three falls of Jesus under his cross, Jesus meets his mother, and Veronica wipes the face of Jesus.


                 This set of Stations is more appropriate for ecumenical services, where all Christians join in making the Way of the Cross, since we all share the same gospel accounts of the suffering and death of Jesus. The Pope gave only the titles of the Stations, with no set gospel texts or prayers.


         The Twelfth Station is situated on a large man-made mound.  Beneath it lies a spacious vault, which first was planned as a burial place for the friars, but this idea was later abandoned.


At the Thirteenth Station: Jesus is taken down from the cross


            The Scriptural Way of the Cross is similar to the traditional Way of the Cross, except that there are three stations before “Jesus before Pilate”. They are: “The Last Supper”, “The Garden of Gethsemane ”, and, “Jesus before the Sanhedrin”.  “Jesus is whipped and crowned with thorns” comes before “Jesus carries the cross”. There is no first, second or third fall in the Scriptural Way of the Cross, or Jesus meeting his mother or Veronica wiping the face of Jesus. “Jesus and the good thief” and “Jesus speaks to Mary and John” precede “Jesus dies on the cross”. Most important of all, after “Jesus is buried”, is added “Jesus rises from the dead”.


At the Fourteenth Station: Jesus is buried


         How do we make the Way of the Cross? We begin by recollecting our minds and situating ourselves in the gospel scene of Jesus at the Last Supper (if we are following the Scriptural Way of the Cross) or of Jesus before Pilate. As we proceed through the fourteen Stations, we stand in front of the representation of the scene. We recall that Jesus, the Risen Lord, is present among us and accompanies us while we remember his last hours before his death.


         At each Station, we read or listen to a relevant passage from the gospel or other sacred Scripture. We speak to Jesus by joining others in a common prayer, and by praying silently.


         We process from station to station, singing appropriate hymns, or in silent reflection. We are moved to compassion for Jesus and for all who suffer, to admiration of his forgiving his enemies, to compunction for our poor following of him, to imitation of his patience, to thanksgiving for what he did for us, to hope and trust in his power to save us, to love for God who gave him to us as our brother and Saviour.


         In 2000, a year of Jubilee in the Catholic Church, the friars of “Maryfields” Friary, which, together with “Bethlehem” Monastery of the Poor Clares, is off Narellan Road, a little closer to Campbelltown, decided to make a new beginning.  We decided to hold the Way of the Cross at 3 p.m. on the Sundays of Lent and on Palm Sunday, but not on Good Friday to avoid conflicting with church ceremonies held in every Catholic church at 3.00 p.m. We hold the Way of the Cross on Good Friday at 9 a.m.  The response received has been encouraging: from 80 to 500 people make the Way of the Cross with us on these various occasions.


         We hold the Stations on other occasions, for instance, on the Sunday closest to 2 November, when we remember our deceased friars and nuns, relatives and friends.  Groups are always welcome. We request that they ring the Friary first.