THE FIRST STATION
Jesus is Condemned to Death
Jesus is made to carry His Cross
Jesus falls for the first time
Jesus meets His sorrowful Mother
Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus to carry His Cross
Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
Created entirely by hand in copper, these Stations of the Cross clearly evoke the torturous Passion of Christ.
Every Catholic church has Stations of the Cross and they are represented in many, many different forms. The Stations of the Cross at St. Margaret Mary's are unique; not only in style and material, but also because of where and how they were created and produced.
The Stations of the Cross is a popular devotion (also called Way of the Cross) in honor of the Passion and death of Christ; it consists of meditating on fourteen “stations” or “stages” in the Passion of Christ, such as his condemnation by Pilate, his scourging, his journey to Calvary, and the tomb.
Back in 1955, the Black Mountain Neurological Treatment Center medical center was known as the Swannanoa Rehabilitation Center. Our Stations of the Cross are the product of a physical therapy project proposed by an art program instructor, Renee Kantor, who was also the wife of the hospital pathologist. Mrs. Kantor noticed that Mike Schnekser, (pronounced “sh-neck-ster”) a patient recovering from two years of treatments and surgery, liked to work with copper, and so she proposed making a set of Stations of the Cross out of hammered copper. Mike was reluctant to accept such an extensive project, but she overcame his reluctance by suggesting that they become a team, she would design and he would work the copper.
Once the team got started the magnitude of their project became evident and they were almost overwhelmed with the possibilities and questions. Many hours were spent in discussions to identify the meaning of those terrible events. Mrs. Kantor discussed the various station scenes with her husband and other doctors to identify certain details, such as the proper sag of muscles and body. A cross large enough to support a man was built, and with patients as models, it was used to demonstrate the nailing to the cross, the carrying and the three falls. Once Renee even suspended herself before a mirror to accurately identify the proper sag of various muscles and the body as a unit.
After many sketches of others she finally used her husband’s face as a model for that of Christ. The only tools and materials available to be used were those already on hand in the hospital shop. Techniques had to be developed for each situation as no precedent or professional instruction was available.
Finally, at the end of six months, the project was completed – the stations were finished. Renee Kantor suggested offering them to St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church with the stipulation that they be returned if the church was ever closed. Formal documents to that effect were actually drawn and executed with the Diocesan office and the stations were delivered to the church for installation in June of 1955. These unique stations can correctly be regarded as a permanent fixture at St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church.
Note: Renee Kanto passed away, a cancer victim, in the early 1960’s. Mike Schnekser retired from the Air Force in 1968 as a Colonel, and moved out west, whereabouts unknown.