Cali Hackett, a freshman at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, led a project to install outdoor stations of the cross at St. Bartholomew Parish in Bethesda for her Girl Scout Silver Award. (CS Photos by Jaclyn Lippelmann)
Cali Hackett, a freshman at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, led a project to install outdoor stations of the cross at St. Bartholomew Parish in Bethesda for her Girl Scout Silver Award. (CS Photos by Jaclyn Lippelmann)
People driving down River Road in Bethesda can now see 14 wooden crosses lining the woods outside of St. Bartholomew Parish, thanks to ninth grader Cali Hackett, who led a project to install the Stations of the Cross there for her Girl Scout Silver Award.

The brass stations are covered with a wooden house-shaped frame and placed at the center of the wooden crosses, which Hackett designed to match the larger cross that stands in the parking lot of the parish, facing River Road. Next to the crosses, there is a plastic box that holds papers with reflections both in English and Spanish, so people can guide themselves through the stations.

Shannon Harris, a parishioner at St. Bartholomew, said the Stations of the Cross are one of her favorite parts of the Church, “So when I went to St. Bart’s and I saw them so out in the open where everyone can see them going down River Road, I was so excited.”

“It is my hope more people could follow them and walk them and really understand their path,” Harris added. “…It was Jesus’ walk. It was His walk to our salvation... At every single station along the way there is a message for me.”

Cali worked with her dad, Steve Hackett, and their family friend, Deacon John Class, to construct the crosses, which stand 6 feet above the ground. They made a prototype for Father Mark Knestout, the parish’s pastor, and after receiving his approval, they set out to make one for each of the 14 stations.

They worked together to saw and stain the wood to make the cross and to put all of the pieces together. Then on Aug. 18, Margie Hackett, Cali’s mom, and some of their extended family joined them to install the crosses at the parish.

On Sept. 8, Father Knestout blessed the stations. Cali assisted him as an altar server, carrying the holy water, as he processed to each station to give a blessing.

“The stations are a very helpful means by which we remember what Jesus did for us, His suffering on the cross,” said Father Knestout.

The parish previously had a nature walk with crosses to represent the stations, but leaves and vines frequently covered them. The new stations will provide more opportunity for people to be able to walk the stations, and also help people who are driving by to understand that there is a Catholic parish there, said Father Knestout.

“It is a good addition to our devotional opportunities here at the parish,” he said, adding, “It provides a good witness to others.”

The brass stations came from a repository in Philadelphia, which holds items from Churches that have been closed down. Father Knestout said he appreciated the spiritual significance of being able to reuse those sacred objects. The parish paid for those stations, and Cali paid for all the other materials to build and construct the crosses through money she raised by selling Girl Scout cookies and other products.

Cali, who attends Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, is also leading a school-supply drive at the parish for the second year in a row. The school supplies that she collects will be given to students at Sacred Heart School in Washington.

Steve Hackett has been a parishioner at St. Bartholomew since he was a child, growing up just four houses down the street from the parish. Members of his family came to help install the crosses even though they no longer live near the parish, because they said they still feel that it is their home parish.

“It’s nice to have a legacy of generations,” said Steve, who also noted that now every time they drive down River Road, they will be able to look over to the stations and feel “pride at knowing we are a part of it.”

Steve’s parents were some of the founding members of the parish, and their names are on a plaque just inside of the church. Now, this new addition to the parish will add to their family’s legacy there.

“I like that when I come back in the future after going to college, they’ll still be there,” said Cali.