Speakers lined the length of the Brooklyn Bridge projecting gospel hymns sung by a walking choir while hundreds of people, with colorful rosaries dangling from their wrists, processed slowly towards Manhattan in the early afternoon sunlight on Good Friday.
At intermittent locations across the bridge, priests leading the surging crowd stopped and read gospel verses with short reflections before moving to the next stop. The annual event – Way of the Cross Over the Brooklyn Bridge – began at St. James Cathedral-Basilica in Brooklyn and ended at St. Peter’s Church in Manhattan and is a Catholic celebration of the 14 Stations of the Cross.
“The son of man would have to suffer many things…and be killed before rising again three days later,” a priests voice boomed over the speakers.
Many families were in attendance with strollers and toddlers in tow. Now in its 22nd year, most people have attended the event before.
Pat LeBlanc, 50, was in attendance for the third time and came from Queens just to participate in the event.
“I like the fact it’s at the Brooklyn Bridge, where we can stop at different locations, because it gives me time to reflect on the challenges that I face,” said LeBlanc. “It helps me increase my faith in the Catholic church and I try to persevere – it is like a marriage, till death do us part.”
LeBlanc was born in Haiti where he received his first holy Communion and came to New York City when he was nine years old. He has been practicing Catholicism ever since but remains open-minded.
“I have my questions and there are challenges, but I look at certain leaders of the Catholic church who show acts of love and respect for everyone. That’s beautiful,” LeBlanc said with a smile.
Paul Francois, 21, who was an altar boy for most of his youth, came for the first time with his mother, one of the event’s organizers.
“It is very ritualistic but I like doing this because it helps me understand what Jesus went through,” said Francois.
Although he has been a practicing Catholic his entire life, Francois admitted that his dedication to the old stories written in the Bible may be hard to believe, especially in the era of social media. But he insisted that he ultimately has faith in his religion.
Halfway over the bridge, Julie Hussain stopped to give her 4-year-old daughter a snack as she pushed her along in a stroller.
Hussain is Catholic and her husband is Muslim. Together they raise their two daughters in an interfaith household, attending both Catholic and Islamic services. She had never attended the Stations of the Cross walk before but felt it was important to bring her daughter to commemorate what Jesus Christ sacrificed on behalf of all people.
“If my husband and I stick to the core values of love, kindness and respect then there is no way we couldn’t make it work,” said Hussain. “We’re all God’s children and he loves everyone.”
Hussain, 36, spoke about the current political climate and how necessary it was, now more than ever, to come together for religious celebrations.
“It’s especially important we’re all connected and showing love and compassion,” said Hussain.
As the procession moved on to the next station, priests reminded everyone that it takes courage to walk in the presence of the Lord and that participating in this event in a place like New York City – where millions of people shuffle around every day – is a reminder that everyone plays a profound role.
Step by Step
The 22nd annual Good Friday procession over the Brooklyn Bridge reenacted the stations of the cross as Catholics all over the world prepared for Easter Sunday.