It’s been three decades since vandals destroyed a 12-foot-high wooden cross atop Wayland’s Selbig Hill.
And it’s been nearly as long since the cross’s replacement — a steel version — went up in the same spot. That cross remains firmly in place today, a striking testimony to the faith of numerous worshipers in town.
On April 9, in keeping with a well-developed Good Friday tradition, the cross will serve as the final destination for an annual ecumenical Way of the Cross. The event, which begins at 1 p.m., traditionally draws hundreds of participants from Catholic and Protestant churches in Wayland as well as surrounding towns and villages.
John Landino, one of the cross walk’s original participants, is the man who built the 25-foot-high steel cross over a few days’ period back in 1974. Landino noted that he was motivated, in part, by anger over the wooden cross’s demise earlier that year.
“It’s hard to believe that someone would actually desecrate the cross, but somebody broke the wooden one right off,” recalled Landino, 65, a longtime parishioner of St. Joseph’s in Wayland. “It was just unreal. That really bothered me that they would do that.”
He was bothered enough to take action: “Once I get something in my brain, I finish it. If I’m not dreaming up a project, I’m not happy.”
Landino, who now owns a machine shop in Wayland, made the cross with donated material from the local Foster Wheeler plant where he was employed at the time. He and several volunteers transported and erected the cross in October 1974, anchoring it with more than a ton of concrete.
“We were making a statement,” Landino remarked, referring to both the cross’s symbolism and the volunteers’ resolve to thwart the vandals.
The cross, situated on the western outskirts of this northern Steuben County village, is located on a private farm owned by the Case family. It’s perched at an estimated elevation of 1,800 feet and can be seen from Route 15. “It’s really quite glorious up there. People go up for inspiration,” Landino said.
However, in the early 1900s, Selbig Hill was also the site of cross burnings by Ku Klux Klan members. In 1973, the Wayland Area Council of Churches held its first outdoor Stations of the Cross that ended atop the hill. The wooden cross went up in time for the 1974 walk, but the cross lasted only a few months before being snapped at the base.
Even today, the steel cross is still apparently a target for vandals. “It’s actually got like 10 bullet holes through it,” Landino said. “I’ve had police tell me they found kids sitting on it. These kids have tried everything.”
Not only has that cross strongly endured, so has the tradition of the Good Friday walk: April 9 will mark the 32nd year of the annual event. The two-hour observance will begin at Wayland Town Hall on Main Street, symbolizing Jesus being handed over by Pontius Pilate. Participants will then walk approximately 2 1/2 miles through Wayland before ascending Selbig Hill — now commonly known as Calvary Hill — where the last seven Stations will be conducted. Bus transportation is provided for people who are unable to handle the long distances and/or steep climb.
Landino and his family have often participated as walkers, and have also made signs to mark each station. Landino said the walk draws mostly Protestants but also has a good representation from St. Joseph’s as well as other churches in the Holy Family Catholic Community — Sacred Heart, Perkinsville; St. Pius V, Cohocton; and St. Mary’s, Dansville.
“It’s really quite remarkable that we’ve lasted this long,” Landino said. “We’ve had a couple of years with some real bad rain, really bad weather, but we’ve always walked. We’ve had people come from 30, 40 miles away.”