Jane Keppers, a religious education coordinator at St. Francis of Assisi Church and director of a play entitled, “Journey With Jesus to Calvary,” admits to never having the vision that she would be coordinating a religion program or directing a play.
Performances of “Journey With Jesus to Calvary” will be Friday and Saturday, April 11-12, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, April 13, at 1 p.m. at St. Francis of Assisi Church, located between Albany and Upsala on Highway 238.
The idea began in 2009, when Keppers was inspired to put together a “small” scale presentation of historical characters who encountered Jesus on his journey to Calvary. Her plan was to have a character visit the religious education students each week to tell their story of encountering Jesus and recount the events of Holy Week and the period leading up to the death of Jesus. Her main goal was to work off of the emotions of each character to truly impact what the students heard.
What started as a vision to educate a few became a mission to deliver a message to many. Each year’s performance brought forth new actors, additional parts, ideas from the participants and with that, growth. The inspiration that started with Keppers has grown to include more than 60 individuals in today’s performances.
“These parishioners have experienced God’s guiding presence as they do and become more than they imagined,” said Keppers.
Keppers said the parishioners spend many hours preparing for the performances of “Journey With Jesus.” What first started as a way to instruct students has moved into what Keppers called, “An inspiring performance for the public.”
“The play participants were truly inspired and realized how their performances were affecting people who attended. It was a good thing for those participating and those attending,” she said.
Keppers said the performance grabs people in different ways. “It brings before your eyes all those things you read about during Holy Week. A mother in the audience might feel the pain of Mary as she talks about her beloved son, while a man sitting center aisle may be angry and feel the urge to grab the soldier who whips Jesus as he falls under the weight of the cross,” said Keppers.
“Another person might think differently about the position Pilate was put in when Jesus was brought before him and consider, ‘What would I have done if I were in his place?’ Everyone laughs at the stubborn donkey.”
Keppers believes God put her in the position of religious education coordinator and director of this play for a reason. “I think God wanted me to be the messenger — to create that domino effect. Play participants have been inspired by God working in them and truly feel the emotion they are conveying to the audience,” said Keppers.
“They often speak of how much more meaning the play has brought to them during Holy Week. They deliver a message that they feel down deep inside. You can hear it in their voices and see it in their actions. They speak of the special bond they feel in working so closely on a project of this magnitude. What really makes an impact and fuels that inspiration is seeing and hearing from the audience. Tears are commonly seen in the crowd throughout the performance.
The public is welcome to attend. There is no admission fee, but a freewill offering will be accepted to benefit the religious education program. For additional photos and details, visit www.238catholic.org/journey-with-jesus.htm.