Home Education and Careers Via Crucis at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Wilmington: Longtime devotional...

Via Crucis at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Wilmington: Longtime devotional drama revived after pandemic hiatus

2023 Via Crucis performance at St. Anthony Church, Friday, March 17, 2023. Don Blake

A familiar part of St. Anthony of Padua Parish returned to Wilmington this Lent.

Via Crucis, the devotional drama that premiered at St. Anthony’s in 1933 and was revived in 1961, is back in full this year for the first time since 2019 after the coronavirus pandemic shortened one year and caused cancelations the last two.

Maria Finamore, the longtime director of Via Crucis, said St. Anthony’s hosted the event on Ash Wednesday and one Friday in 2020 before everything was shut down at the beginning of the coronavirus.

Finamore said the cast usually includes children from about 25-30 different schools, plus a few who homeschool. Many have been in Via Crucis nearly their entire lives, so when they returned this year, a lot of them remembered the movements of the different characters.

One of the cast members is a college sophomore. He had wanted to be a Roman soldier since he was 3, she said, and is now in that role because the costume fits. All the little kids, she said, want to be soldiers. She recalled what the late Oblate Father Roberto Balducelli used to say to these children.

“When the little boys told them they wanted to be soldiers, he told them, ‘Ok maybe next year. You just have to eat a little more pasta first,’” Finamore said.

Father Balducelli, who died in 2013, was the longtime pastor of St. Anthony’s and revived the Via Crucis. He was made a member of the cast on its 50th anniversary in 2011.

“The Via Crucis is ecumenical,” she said. “Ecumenical means worldwide and universal, which is what the church is supposed to be in the first place. Every religion has the story of Jesus both when he was born and when he died.”

The performances debuted on Feb. 22 and continue on Fridays in Lent through April 7. The Via Crucis lasts for an hour.

For more information or to sign up, contact Finamore at stanthony.viacrucis@gmail.com.