Sheila Parr has always wanted to attend the Way of the Cross/Way of Peace, Meridian’s annual Good Friday Ecumenical Witness of Faith Walk.

“I’ve heard people talk about it and how it has touched their lives,” said Parr, whose family usually travels to Indianola for Easter.

This year, Parr got her wish and was among the more than 400 people who participated in Friday’s ninth annual walk.

“I wanted to see all the people together — people of different races and faiths coming together in prayer and praise,” Parr said.

The walk, which included 13 stations — each representing Jesus’ journey to the cross — began at noon at the Lauderdale County Courthouse. At the station, Jesus is condemned.

The journey continued to various downtown churches and businesses and featured music, readings and dramatic presentations. Throughout the walk, a cross was carried to each stop by various volunteers. The journey culminated at Dumont City Park.

Attendance for this year’s walk was smaller than previous years. However, it had little effect on the walkers’ spirits, which overflowed with joy and praise of the occasion.

“We’re walking for Christ,” said Marie Collins of Meridian, who has participated in the Good Friday march for eight years.

“We’re walking to let people know that Christ is real and still alive,” she said. “We’re celebrating His death and resurrection and showing others that even though we may be different, we’re all worshiping the same God.”

Cornelius Beal, who also is a regular participant, said the Way of the Cross/Way of Peace is good for Meridian.

“It brings all Christians together for one day to remember what Christ did for our sins,” Beal said.

One person noticeably absent from the annual Good Friday event was Sister André Burkhart, who introduced the faith walk to Meridian in 1997. Burkhart returned to her home in Brooksville, Ind., to be with her mother, who is gravely ill.

This was to be the last Way of the Cross for Burkhart, who recently announced plans to leave Meridian after 11 years as pastoral associate at St. Patrick and St. Joseph’s Catholic churches.

Overall, this year’s Way of the Cross/Way of Peace Faith Walk was considered a great success by organizers.

“I’m not a numbers person,” said Tom Zettler, who served as acting coordinator in the absence of Burkhart. “Everyone who wanted to be there was there. And they were there for one reason — to honor the Lord. I truly believe that this walk is an example of what it will be like in heaven — where everyone is one and we serve the one God.”

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