Good Friday tradition takes place in Amsterdam


Recorder News Staff

He carried the cross down the street, with robbed individuals walking ahead and armed guards trailing behind.

At one point, he fell, the cross toppling to his side, but a man came to help him, carrying the cross with him for the rest of his journey.

And while he walked, a crowd of about 50 followed, listening, singing and praying.

It was this year's Living Stations of the Cross at St. Mary's Church in Amsterdam, and though slightly windy and cloudy outside, a group of about 15 local residents of all generations brought the regular 14 stations of the cross to life.

Dressed in purple attire, local resident Adan Fuentes played the part of Jesus Christ, wearing a padded crown of thorns atop is head, dragging a 15-foot cross over his shoulder down East Main Street.

Amsterdam police vehicles blocked city streets as the crowd followed Fuentes and other reenactors up Liberty Street, across High Street, down Schuyler Street, and back on to East Main Street toward the church, as the Rev. John Medwid, the Rev. Victor Polito, and acolyte Bruce Wilcox read the stations in both Spanish and English for the crowd.

In between each station, the residents sang songs, and when they arrived back at St. Mary's Church, they received the Eucharist and one-by-one kissed the feet of Jesus on a crucifix at the alter.

Silka Quiles, a parishioner of the church, said the living stations brought a bigger crowd than they have seen in recent years.

"I found that more people are coming back to the church and they are more into the Lord and I think it's about time," Quiles said.

Quiles' family used to participate in the living stations in Puerto Rico, where she is from.

"When we came here, we kept the tradition. It was basically the Hispanic people that started this here in Amsterdam," she said.

And her mother, Nelida Perez, was part of that initial group that got it up and running.

"They thought it would be something grand for Amsterdam."

Dozens of people would come when she was a girl, Quiles recalled, but even though the crowd is smaller now, she is hoping they will be able to keep the bilingual tradition going for years to come.

Erica Cordon, another parishioner, said she was asked again this year to be part of the procession, and she was happy to say yes.

"I feel that it's a good tradition to keep, to revive what Jesus went through that day (Good) Friday. And it's like a tradition that we have so I want to be part of it," Cordon said.

Cordon said when she celebrates Easter with her children, the journey of Jesus is what it's really all about, not the eggs and bunnies.

"We keep that tradition, too ... but I think that this is the main important thing that I've taught them that this is what it really is about this weekend. It's OK to have other little things on the side, but for them to have a clear mind that this is the reason why we celebrate this day and on Easter day, which is Sunday, this is Jesus' Resurrection," she said.

The tradition of the living station procession began at St. Michael's Church in Amsterdam, but once the church closed, the tradition moved to St. Mary's, said Medwid, pastor at St. Mary's Church.

"It helps really to enter into the spirit of Good Friday and helps to bring alive the events of the passion, as opposed to just reading them out of the Scriptures," he explained. "That's good, too, but this kind, acting it out, helps to bring it to life, and I think it helps people to appreciate what it's about."