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The following article was originally published in the April 3, 2009, print edition of The Catholic Missourian:
A grand Via Dolorosa once ascended the hill toward Villa Panorama.
Fourteen monolithic kiosks of colorful native stone bore detailed relief images of Christ’s suffering, death and burial.
Future Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette contemplated those images repeatedly while discerning their own call to holy obedience.
Thousands of summer retreatants, standing before the same stations, meditated on their own faults and failings, confident of God’s mercy.
The massive Stations of the Cross remain, although the last of the seminarians left in 1969.
Weathered as an old rugged cross, 11 of the 14 now line the driveway to the Kenneth R. Locke Apartments on Linden Drive, near the pond that once reflected their light.
Nine still have plaques stating who donated them:
Donald Schnieders, a member of Cathedral of St. Joseph Parish in Jefferson City, who attended La Salette Seminary for two years, believes the stations were built in 1951 or ‘52.
Prost Construction, which years later built the Cathedral of St. Joseph, was the contractor, Mr. Schnieders recalled.
When the seminary closed, Mr. Schnieders bought the gates to the property and installed them in his yard.
Larry Schepker, named after his late father who helped sponsor one of the stations, recalled that many of the stops along Christ’s Way of the Cross were donated by local laymen.
“Dad and Mr. Voracek were both very active at La Salette and often made retreats out there,” he said.
The younger Mr. Schepker remembers his dad showing him the plaque with his name on it.
“I don’t remember which station it was, but I definitely remember walking up and down that hill!” he said. “It was kind of a zigzag of a path.”
His wife Carolyn recalled that Mrs. Coppin — wife of the namesake of Jefferson City’s Knights of Columbus Fourth Degree Assembly — taught her English in grade school.
The elder Mr. Schepker died in 1981.
La Salette Father Clarence Wheeler, who attended the La Salette Seminary in Jefferson City, taught there and later served as rector, recalled that people prayed the stations on Sundays during retreats “all summer long.”
The stations were also part of the annual pilgrimages in honor of Our Lady of La Salette, whose feastday is Sept. 19.
The stations were moved to the edge of the grounds when the 46-acre seminary property was sold to the Jefferson City Housing Authority.
Fr. Wheeler said he is interested in finding out who donated the stations that no longer have plaques on them.
Restoring the stations would be a great service project for teens or Eagle Scouts, he suggested.