The re-enactment of the Way of the Cross, presented by a St. John the Evangelist Church youth group Sunday outside the church, drew a crowd of some 300 people. Photo: Denise Civiletti

Hundreds of worshippers descended on St. John The Evangelist Catholic Church Sunday where a group of about 40 parishioners, most of them from a youth group, took center stage with a live reenactment of The Way of the Cross, a traditional Lenten devotion that depicts the journey of Jesus to Calvary Hill.

“The event was wonderful and very well-attended. You could see the devotion of the people participating and their own prayers,” said Sister Margaret Smyth, North Fork Spanish Apostolate director and one of the main coordinators of the event.

The live Way of the Cross re-enacts the stations of the cross, depicting each of the steps in the journey Christ took to his crucifixion on Good Friday — with re-enactors dressed in period costumes. From being sentenced and carrying the Cross to falling three times and encountering the Virgin Mary and consoling the “daughters of Jerusalem,” the actors performed each scene with impressive detail and devotion.

“This is a way for us Catholics to recognize our sins and get closer to him [Jesus] he is our Savior and we have to remember him and reconcile ourselves with our brothers and sisters,” St. John the Evangelist Youth Group leader Geremias Bosch said.

He also said that for Latinos, Catholic or not, Holy Week and all events surrounding it are very important and it’s a way to unite the community.

The audience, full of families, including children of all ages, watched and even sung and prayed at each scene, while recording and taking pictures as the event progressed. The gasps were audible every time the actor depicting Jesus was being subjected to lashings by the Roman guards. and many were praying while the “Via Crucis” (Way of the Cross in Latin) moved forward.

“Seeing it makes it more real for people to follow in their faith,” Smyth said. “It’s a confirmation of Christ.”

A live chorus and band where also present, providing doleful music between every station.

“It’s hard to coordinate so many elements in just a couple of months, but I feel very proud because we did and it was a success, many people came and experienced this wonderful event and could feel their faith,” Bosch said.

The culmination of the event was the crucifixion. Prayers and a long moment of silence marked the solemn scene, where the audience of over 300 watched in awe.

“The part I liked the most was when God was on the cross,” said seven-year-old Roxana Flores.

Worshippers then proceeded inside the Church, where the final scene of the Way of the Cross took place: “Roman soldiers” took Jesus’ body and placed him in a “tomb.” The congregation, many holding traditional palms and rosaries, then prayed together the Lord’s Prayer and Hail Mary.

“It is very important for every community to understand Christ died for all of us and he’s accompanying us, so it gives us the opportunity to accompany him and the passionate journey he is undertaking, so at the end of it we will have the resurrection and life can get better,” Smyth said.

Anywhere from 600 to 800 people attend the Spanish-language Sunday Mass at St. John’s each week, Smyth said. Spanish-language masses at other area churches — Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church in Westhampton, St. Agnes’ in Greenport and the Church of St. Rosalie in Hampton Bays — draw similar crowds.

“Every time I come to church I feel it makes me better and here they take care of us,” said Roxana.

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María del Mar is a contributor to RiverheadLOCAL and the editor and founder of Tu Prensa Local, a Spanish-language local news outlet on Long Island. Maria has won several awards for her work, including a first place best column award from the New York Press Association. Email Maria