By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer

DREXEL HILL – Refurbishing a set of the Stations of the Cross helped 18-year-old Matthew Ryan earn his Eagle Scout badge.

It also served as a reminder to the Monsignor Bonner High School senior of Easter’s salvific message.

“Every time I walk by them, I just think of what Jesus did,” Ryan said of the crucifixion depicted in the restored stations that now grace an outdoor prayer garden at Archbishop Prendergast High School, next door to Monsignor Bonner, in Drexel Hill, Delaware County.

“He made the ultimate sacrifice. Every time I think of my Eagle Scout project, I’ll always be reminded of that and never lose sight of what He did,” Ryan said.

How the stations came to grace the prayer garden at Prendie is providential.

Last summer, Ryan was seeking a project for his Eagle Scout badge – the highest award of the Boy Scouts of America – that would honor both his school and the Church. At Bonner, Ryan serves as a sacristan and altar server. At his parish, St. Joseph in Collingdale, he is the lead teen sacristan and, in younger years, was an altar server there. Ryan is also a 2006 alumnus of the parish school.

Meanwhile, Michael and Denise McKenzie of St. Bernadette Parish in Drexel Hill had been looking for an opportunity to honor St. Leonie Aviat. The couple’s daughter, Bernadette McKenzie Kutufaris, a 1995 Prendie alumna, was the recipient of the final miracle that led to Blessed Leonie Aviat’s canonization in 2001.

Michael McKenzie also serves as the director of operations and security at Monsignor Bonner and Archbishop Prendergast.

It was Father James P. Olson, president of Bonner and Prendie, who suggested that Ryan and the McKenzies concretize their concepts into a combined project.

The McKenzies purchased the stations through the Archdiocesan Ecclesiastical Exchange Program. Previously, the stations had been part of the chapel of St. Vincent Home in Philadelphia.

An interesting correlation is that before Archbishop Prendergast High was converted into a school, its building housed an archdiocesan institution by a similar name – St. Vincent Orphanage.

The restoration project included waterproofing the 14 wooden stations and constructing wooden shelters for them, then mounting each station on a wooden post.

Among the approximately 30 inspaniduals who helped Ryan were members of his scout troop, including Joseph Pean, a Bonner sophomore; family members of the scouts, including Ryan’s parents, Daniel and Rebecca; and his siblings, Kathleen, 15, a Prendie sophomore, and Andrew, 13, a seventh-grader at St. Joseph School in Collingdale. The McKenzies also helped with the project.

Prendie’s prayer garden was dedicated last October. Ryan received his Eagle Scout ranking in November.

A scout since the sixth grade, Ryan is proud of his faith-based project. “God is always a primary part of what we do,” he said.

“I just like helping people. Being a Catholic means you’re courteous to all and kind to all.

“I love my faith,” he added.

The Stations of the Cross are timeless pillars of strength and grace, a gift for all, Ryan said.

“They depict Jesus’ passion and death, which is the most important event in the life of Christ, and it’s the basis for our faith. They’re essential. Everybody should know them and embrace them,” he said.

CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at 215-587-2468 or