Mundelein's Santa Maria del Popolo Catholic Church observed Good Friday with a Latino tradition meant to create a more personal experience for worshippers.
Via Crucis, or Way of the Cross, drew a standing-room-only crowd to the church for the Spanish-language drama, which illustrated the passion and death of Jesus Christ. About 40 volunteer actors participated under the direction of Santa Maria del Popolo parishioner Luis Montes.
Montes said the crew practiced about two months before Friday's performance. Via Crucis has been performed at Santa Maria del Popolo since 2000.
"When you see something like here, it's more emotional," Montes said.
Parishioner Miguel Angel Correa of Mundelein had the lead role as Jesus. Correa's wife, Mayela, was Jesus' mother, Mary.
At one point in the drama, guards whipped Jesus as he carried a cross down the church's middle aisle and fell three times. Correa said he began experiencing the emotion of playing Jesus when he started rehearsing for Via Crucis.
"It's very hard to transmit it to people in person, so you really have to feel the emotions inside your heart and feel the love, that God actually sent his son to die for us," Correa said. "There are no words that can describe that."
Correa's teenage daughter, also named Mayela, was one of the angels in the nearly two-hour "Living Stations of the Cross." She said she immersed herself in the character, who let Jesus know he should not worry about dying on the cross.
"It's nice being able to spend time with your family and be able to live the life that Jesus went through and be able to tell these people, in the play, what happened," she said.
Cast members prayed after the performance, then received polite applause from worshippers.
Similar Good Friday observances were held elsewhere in the suburbs and in Chicago.
Participants gathered just before noon at St. Thomas of Villanova in Palatine for a short procession to Mision San Diego in Arlington Heights.
In Chicago, the ninth-annual Way of the Cross started about 9 a.m. at Daley Plaza with brief reflection by Cardinal Francis George and ended three hours later in time for Good Friday Mass at Holy Name Cathedral.