From betrayal to the agony of crucifixion and a miraculous resurrection, students at Holy Family Elementary School in Hays officially welcomed the Easter holiday with an annual pageant acting out the 14 Stations of the Cross.

The Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church, 1805 Vine, was full Wednesday afternoon as families and parishioners gathered for the traditional play, which is presented by the school’s sixth-grade class.

The Living Stations portray the Gospel story of the Passion, with student actors in full costume and make-up to make the scenes more realistic. The students leading Wednesday’s presentation had been watching for years, and it often leads to deeper reflections about their faith, said sixth-grader Halle Dreiling.

“It’s kind of cool to watch how Jesus has all that makeup on, and it’s so realistic to watch,” Dreiling said of the emotional scenes that portray Jesus bleeding and being continually whipped as he picks up his cross.

The presentation, of course, has a happy ending as Jesus’ followers realize he has been raised from the dead and students make a joyful procession around the sanctuary.

“I love it when He goes around and makes the sign of the cross with the happy music,” Dreiling added.

The 14 stations begin when Jesus is condemned to death, and follow his journey as he carries the cross to crucifixion. Caden Becker was cast in the lead role, and admitted being “nervous” about portraying such an important person.

For some students, the presentation also is an opportunity for them to share their faith with others, said Aliya Seib, who portrayed the angel who told believers of Jesus’ resurrection.

“We all just try to get the news out and tell other people,” she said.

The Catholic schools dismissed Wednesday for a five-day holiday weekend in observance of Holy Thursday and Good Friday. Classes will resume Tuesday, and the Living Stations is a fitting way for students to celebrate Holy Week, said Principal Rachel Wentling.

“I think it’s something the younger kids look forward to. They get to see it every year, and they look forward to being able to do the performance when they’re in sixth grade,” Wentling said. “We know in education when we see something, we learn. But actually when we have the students take part in production, planning, all of that -- it has a more powerful impact on us.”

While some students acted in the play, others took turns narrating and singing Christian hymns as the story unfolded. Props included a real wooden cross that was carried by the characters of Jesus, with help from Simon of Cyrene.

“I think it really allows our students to see the truth of the story,” Wentling said. “We look at the stations and we see the pictures and we say the prayers to go along with it, but it really helps them to develop that sense of empathy for what really happened during the Passion.”