Dozens of onlookers solemnly walked a nearly mile-long route along Brentwood's streets Friday, following the steps of a man portraying Jesus' struggle to carry the cross to his crucifixion nearly 2,000 years ago.
The re-enactment of the "Stations of the Cross," an annual tradition in the parish, traveled from the Brentwood Recreation Center to St. Anne Roman Catholic Church. It was one of scores of Good Friday observances in churches across Long Island as Christians marked the day Jesus of Nazareth was crucified.
"This is extremely important to the parishioners," said Andres Colpa, a deacon at the church. "This is their living gospel, and they are participating in the death and resurrection of Christ."
Ana Lainez, 56, of Brentwood, brought her two grandchildren, ages 9 and 14, to witness the procession.
"We are going through the same steps as Jesus," she said.
The man portraying Jesus walked the 14 Stations of the Cross, signifying the painful pilgrimage from Jesus' condemnation, through his journey to Calvary carrying the cross, and finally his crucifixion and death. He wore a crown of thorns, his face and body made to appear bloodied. Outside the front of the church, he was tied to the cross to depict the crucifixion as the crowd looked on, with some taking photographs.
The faithful believe that two days later Jesus rose from the dead, an event marked each year through celebrations on Easter Sunday, the most important day of the Christian calendar.
"I get the chills," Carlos Meneses, 52, of Brentwood, said after he watched the staging of the crucifixion. "We in this world forget that he did a lot for us."
Auxiliary Bishop Nelson J. Perez, who two years ago became the first-ever Latino in that post for the Diocese of Rockville Centre, joined the crowd at St. Anne's for the procession.
The church has about 3,000 parishioners.
Long Island is home to 1.7 million Roman Catholics, according to the Diocese of Rockville Centre.
"Today is Good Friday -- a very solemn day, a somber day for all of Christianity," said Perez, noting that for believers the re-enactment represents "the walking with Jesus in the way of the cross. It is uniting their suffering to the suffering of Christ, and Christ walks with them in their suffering and their struggles.
"It's a very moving time, a very spiritual moment," he said.