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Kellenberg students carry flags, crosses in Lenten pilgrimage

Freshman students from Kellenberg High School make a

Freshman students from Kellenberg High School make a Lenten pilgrimage, walking from their school to the Cradle of Aviation Museum today Monday March 9, 2015 in Uniondale. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

Six hundred freshmen from Kellenberg Memorial High School marched a mile-and-a-half Monday morning, carrying flags and crosses in a Lenten pilgrimage aimed in part at promoting understanding among different faiths.

The throng of students -- whose crosses bore posters showing the 14 Stations of the Cross -- stopped as they prepared to cross Hempstead Turnpike near Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, waiting for police to stop traffic on the busy roadway.

Then they proceeded to the Cradle of Aviation Museum in Garden City, where they watched the documentary "Jerusalem," which includes the stories of three teenage girls -- a Christian, a Jew and a Muslim -- living in the city from which Jesus was taken to Golgotha and crucified.

All three religions have deep historical roots in Jerusalem, though the 2013 National Geographic film shows how their adherents living there today often remain isolated from one another.

Brother Kenneth Hoagland, Kellenberg's principal, said that is a message all of his students and society as a whole should ponder.

"The crisis in our world today is the ability to be able to live in harmony," he said. "It's important for our students to see how all three faiths can coexist."

Matt Echausse, 14, a freshman from Mineola, said he found it surprising there was so little apparent interaction among the three faiths as documented in the film, which was shown in the museum's IMAX theater.

"I think it was kind of odd they didn't know too much about each other," he said. "They were isolated. They could definitely do more to learn about their faith and culture."

It is the second time that a Kellenberg freshman class has undertaken the pilgrimage. Last year, the event took place on Ash Wednesday as a way to start Lent, the 40-day season of fasting, reflection and penance that culminates with remembrance of the death and resurrection of Jesus during Holy Week.

This year, Ash Wednesday fell during the midwinter school break, so the pilgrimage was held Monday, said James O'Brien, a Scriptures teacher who organized it.

The Rev. Thomas Cardone, the school's chaplain, said the event is held during Lent partly because it is a time for believers to reflect and perhaps change some of their assumptions.

"Lent is primarily about opening ourselves to a spirit of conversion, to rethink how we live our lives and to rethink our attitudes," Cardone said. The message of the film is "very important, because we live in a multicultural society."

Kellenberg also engages in other ecumenical projects, he said. In February, five students from the private Catholic school traveled to Israel along with Jewish students as part of a Long Island-based interfaith program called "Project Understanding."

"We have so many things that separate us, but we also have a common denominator," said Charles Russell, 16, a junior from Malverne who went on the trip. "We can all find things that bring us together."

Emily Huber, 15, a freshman, called Monday's pilgrimage "amazing."

The film helped her "to see the roots of the different faiths, and grow an appreciation for different traditions and beliefs," she said.

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