On Good Friday, April 3, Wayland will be the site of a communitywide religious event that has taken place annually for more than four decades.
Worshipers will gather in front of the courthouse on North Main Street, beginning at noon, for a special Stations of the Cross. They will then take a two-and-a-half mile walk through town and up a steep hill, where the 90-minute observance will conclude at the site of a large cross on the village’s western outskirts.
This event in northern Steuben County was originated in 1973 by the Wayland Area Council of Churches. A 12-foot-high wooden cross was erected for the 1974 walk, but a few months later it was destroyed by vandals. Its replacement, a 25-foot-high steel version, was erected in the same spot that October.
Forty years after making its Good Friday debut, that cross proudly remains atop Selbig Hill, which also has come to be known as Calvary Hill. In fact, the person who constructed and helped install the steel cross, John Landino, has missed only one cross walk since its inception and plans to take the challenging hike again this year.
The walk’s first seven stations are at various stops in town. For instance, the second station is on the St. Joseph Church property in the form of another cross, which was derived from beams Landino salvaged from the former St. Joseph School that was leveled in 2006. The walk’s last seven stations take place on Calvary Hill just below the steel cross, which can be seen from Route 15.
Landino, 76, is a longtime member of St. Joseph, a part of Holy Family Catholic Community along with the churches of St. Pius V, Cohocton; Sacred Heart, Perkinsville; and St. Mary, Dansville. He said the walk draws many parishioners as well as people from Protestant churches, adding that he’s impressed by the consistent level of participation, including nearly 50 folks who turned out in 2014.
"It still gets pretty good interest. We’ve got one guy that comes in every year from Olean," he remarked.
Participants who are physically unable to handle the long distance and/or steep climb — Calvary Hill’s elevation is approximately 1,800 feet — ride at least a portion of the way. Landino acknowledged that the walk is grueling even for people in good condition, and noted that in past years inclement weather has made the trek even tougher.
However, Landino reasoned, these obstacles speak to the point of why the walk is done in the first place.
"For some of the old-timers, anyway, it’s a challenge. It kind of makes them feel like they suffer a little agony along with Christ. It brings (his passion) into reality. Otherwise you just go to Stations of the Cross in church and don’t feel any pain," he said.