Newcastle West takes Passion Play on to the streets

Norma Prendiville


Norma Prendiville

Teacher Sean Shiels with, back row from left, Jack Fanning, Julie Cantillon, Stephanie Sheahan, Conor OSullivan, Padraig Dore, Mary Quilligan, Terri Keane,Shane Hennessey and teachers Margaret O'Mahoney and Keith Rahilly. Front row, Garvin Crowley, Shane Leahy, Eoin O'Keeffe. Picture: Michael Cowhey
EVERY year since 2006, Good Friday has been marked in Newcastle West with a re-enactment of the Way of the Cross.

EVERY year since 2006, Good Friday has been marked in Newcastle West with a re-enactment of the Way of the Cross.

And this year, once again, Transition Year students at the Desmond College are preparing for the solemn yet very dramatic procession through the town which draws in hundreds of followers and ends with the lifting of the cross during the Good Friday ceremonies in the Catholic church.

When Sean Shiels, an art teacher at Desmond College, and his friend Peter Lane first came up with the idea almost a decade ago, local priests Fr Dwohig and Fr Keane were extremely supportive, Sean recalled this week.

“We didn’t know what kind of response we would get,” he said. “We didn’t even know if people would turn up.”

But, to his immense satisfaction, there was a fantastic response. “When we were going down Bridge St, we looked back and there were hundreds and hundreds of people following down the street.”

That fantastic support has been there every year since, Sean added. And if anything, it has grown.

Most of the TY students who will take part in next week’s procession have themselves grown up with the Good Friday Way of the Cross and are now very pleased to have the chance to be actively involved.

“I have seen it most years, it is fairly dramatic and it is good to be asked to take part,” Garvin Crowley from Newcastle West said while Julie Cantillon, Knockaderry admitted to being excited about the occasion. “It is a big deal,” said the young student who will play the part of Mary, mother of God during the re-enactment. “Hopefully, I will be able to carry it off,” she said.

“My nan always wanted me to be part of it. She will be very proud of me,” revealed Stephanie Sheahan, Old Mill who has the part of Mary Magdalene. Students Mary Quilligan, Newcastle West and Terri Keane, Old Mill, are pleased to be in the background, doing the make-up. “You see it, but now to be part of it is good.”

The students will be joined by adult members of the two re-enactment groups with whom Sean Shiels has had a long-standing association, Legion Ireland based in Cork and the Roman Re-enactment Society. “Brian Smith has done the part of Jesus Christ for the last eight years and will be back again this year,” Sean explained.

“We do it because we feel it is important for the school and as part of its role in the community,” Sean continued. “It is a fabulous way for us to reach out to the community as well.”

And he is more than happy the event has found its way into the hearts of people in the town and in the wider area.

All the costumes used in the procession have been made in Desmond College. The Way of the Cross begins at 2.20pm sharp on Good Friday and the procession will go down Church Street, through the Square and Bridge Street and on to the church where there will be a realistic sound-track and a dramatic raising of the cross.