About 1,300 worshippers jammed Mundelein's Santa Maria del Popolo Catholic Church for a Spanish-language drama to mark Good Friday.
Common throughout Mexico, the Via Crucis -- or Way of the Cross -- depicted the final hours of Jesus' life. The 1½-hour production ended with Jesus' crucifixion.
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Parishioner Miguel Angel Correa of Mundelein played the lead role of Jesus for the second consecutive year. Eyes were particularly fixed on Correa as Roman soldiers mocked and whipped him when he carried a wooden cross up the church's aisle.
Correa said he took seriously his preparation to portray Jesus before the standing-room-only crowd.
"To give the love that he gave for us is very hard, to try to live like that every single day," he said. "You actually have to believe it so you can feel it, so you can portray it properly."
Correa's wife, teenage daughter and 8- and 9-year-old sons also appeared in the Via Crucis. His wife, Mayela, played Jesus' mother, Mary, for the second time.
"I could feel the Holy Spirit in me," Mayela Correa said.
Santa Maria parishioner Luis Montes directed what he said was an ensemble of 50 volunteer actors who rehearsed every Friday, Saturday and Sunday since early January. There also were behind-the-scenes volunteers, such as Vernon Hills High School student Luz Pacillas.
Pacillas said she served as props director for Friday's Via Crucis. She said she wanted to pass along the knowledge she's gained working on high school productions to the actors.
Some of Pacillas' work involved tutoring the actors on how to correctly rehearse with props.
"They're all beginners and they're all here for the community and they're doing it all from the bottom of their hearts to help our church," Pacillas said, holding a plastic fish before the drama began. "And I'm doing it, too, as well."
Unlike other Chicago-area churches, Santa Maria permanently moved its Via Crucis presentation inside the church in 2006 because of previous problems with poor weather, Montes said. He said the switch allows for scenes to be changed and a better overall production.
"Every year we're trying to do this more realistic," said Montes, the volunteer director since 2000.
Stations of the Cross dates to the 13th century and offers a way for Catholics and Christians of other denominations to remember the last hours of Jesus' life on Good Friday.