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During Holy Week, we will be featuring reflections by our fellows centered around the Stations of the Cross, which commemorates the Passion of Jesus.

Today, we share a reflection by Melissa Tsuleff on the Fifth Station: Simon Helps Jesus Carry His Cross. As part of her work as the Social Justice Coordinator at the John Paul II Newman Center at UIC this year, Melissa led a group of students on an immersion trip to Jamaica. She shared this story from her trip at Amate House’s Stations of the Cross evening of reflection on March 21, 2018.

Melissa reads her reflection at the annual Stations of the Cross event.

Mark 15:21 states: “[The soldiers] pressed into service a passer-by, Simon, a Cyrenian, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross.”

This past December, I was in Jamaica with a group of UIC students for a week of service, prayer, and a little bit of fun, with the Franciscan Friars in Negril. While we were there, we did various projects and worked with members of the community to help with whatever they needed.

One day, a group of us were in one of the rural communities cleaning out a house so that a man named David, who recently had a stroke and couldn’t move on his own, could move into it. His old house was a zinc house – essentially a one-room metal shack. Though the house we were moving him into wasn’t a mansion, it was better than the one he was previously living in. A woman from the community, Janice, knew David and was working with us that day. As we were sweeping and mopping the inside, cleaning out the dozens of wasp nests on the outside, and cutting the tall grass in front of the house, three men were driving by in a truck and they stopped to talk with us and ask us what we were doing. As we were all talking, Janice started asking these three men to help in various ways, either by getting water from the stream nearby or with helping to cut the grass. Janice pressed the three passers-by into service with a similar intensity that I imagine the soldiers having. However, I believe her intensity was more out of love and compassion for David rather than out of malice and contempt that the soldiers may have had for Jesus.

I chose Mark’s introduction of Simon because of the words he uses. He refers to Simon as a passer-by, somebody going into town who just happens upon Jesus and the soldiers and ends up helping Jesus. Like Simon, the three men who were passing by David’s new house on their way into Negril happened upon us and helped us with our work.

Melissa reads a poem outside of South House at the Stations of the Cross reflection.