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Long Beach church has first Good Friday observance since superstorm Sandy

Jesus of Nazareth, played by David Echeverria, is

Jesus of Nazareth, played by David Echeverria, is lifted on the cross on Friday, April 3, 2015, as parishioners of St. Mary's of the Isle Catholic Church in Long Beach celebrate Good Friday by re-enacting the final hours of Jesus' life. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

The passion and death of Jesus Christ was again commemorated at St. Mary's of the Isle Church in Long Beach Friday -- the parish's first Good Friday observance since superstorm Sandy.

"The Holy Week after Sandy, it was impossible to consider doing this," said the Rev. Brian Barr, who become pastor of the Roman Catholic Church two weeks before the storm hit on Oct. 29, 2012.

"It wasn't even really a question" of having the stations of the cross, Barr, 49, said. "We kind of realized that even last year you had people that weren't fully back yet."

David Echeverria, 40, a St. Mary's parishioner since 1996, said church members were grateful to Barr for allowing them to perform the drama.

Barr "didn't know what we did here, but he gave us the opportunity to do it again," Echeverria said.

Echeverria portrayed Jesus during the drama that began on stage at the Rev. Thomas E. Donohoe Parish Hall, which had served as a hub for food, water and blankets after the storm.

The storm filled the church with a foot and a half of water, knocking it out of service for 10 months, Barr said.

Parishioner Mary Lou Monahan, 72, who saw extensive damage to her Long Beach home and cars during the storm, called yesterday's celebration a "resurrection of Long Beach."

"We're so happy to have it back," said Monahan, who has been a St. Mary's parishioner for 33 years. "The community does a beautiful job of getting everything together. It makes it very vivid and very real, very emotional."

During the stations of the cross, the actors moved outside into the rainy streets that had been closed to traffic by the Long Beach Police Department, and were followed by more than 150 members of the parish. The station in which Jesus carried the cross went around the block, only a few hundred feet from the ocean that flooded the area in October 2012.

"It's another sign of Long Beach's recovery," said Frank McQuade, 61, who portrayed high priest Caiaphas. "To think that the same streets that were flooded and destroyed, now we're marching on them again. It adds a lot to the meaning of Easter, especially this year with the recovery from Sandy."

Bishop Robert Brennan, 52, of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, who preceded Barr as pastor of St. Mary's, said this was a special time for the parish.

"When I was pastor this was always something very, very special to us, and the great active faith of the people and the fact they would be out on the streets is a sign of them living their faith," Brennan said. "It's very sad that after Sandy, they couldn't do it for the last couple of years and so for me it's a real thrill to see them back doing it again."

"We're coming back as a parish," said David Flores, 49, who directed the drama. He said the Good Friday celebration was "not only for the church, it's something to give to the community."

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