Christians and other believers throughout South Jersey celebrated Good Friday with processions, church services and various religious events.

Two longstanding events occurred in Egg Harbor City and Vineland, where hundreds of people marched through the municipalities to commemorate Christ’s walk to Calvary.

Good Friday commemorates Christ’s crucifixion. The day is a solemn one for Christians and an important part of Holy Week, which ends on Easter Sunday.

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About 120 people attended the annual procession at St. Nicholas Church in Egg Harbor City, which is part of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish. The celebration has been held there annually by the church’s Spanish-language congregation for more than 25 years, according to CCD Coordinator Kathy Garcia.

The group assembled outside the church shortly after 11:30 a.m. and circled its grounds, stopping at the 14 Stations of the Cross, or the stages of Jesus’ persecution, from his arrest to the placement of his body in a tomb.

Garcia said she looks forward to the day each year as a way to rekindle her faith.

“It reminds me of what your faith is really about,” Garcia said. “You’re about Jesus. You’re about what he has done for us.”

The procession was led by church members dressed as Jesus, his apostles, his Roman military escort and others. Some roles were portrayed by children as young as 5 or 6.

At each station, the actors would re-enact a scene while church members and leaders explained its significance. Once each was done, the group would proceed to the next station while requesting absolution for their sins in song. Following the procession, the group went to the church sanctuary for a reading of The Passion.

Jesus was played by 20-year-old Abel Espinoza, who also played the role four years ago. He said it was an honor to again portray his savior.

“It’s good,” he said. “I’m proud of it and I’m glad to do it, anytime.”

It was unseasonably cool at the procession, and many members of the congregation could not get off work, leading to a lower turnout than usual, Garcia said. The event usually draws 200 people or more.

In Vineland, the procession of about 300 people marched out of the parking lot at the old Immaculate Heart of Mary Church at Eighth and Almond streets shortly after 2 p.m. It ended several blocks away at the Division Mercy Parish church on Chestnut Street.

City resident Eugenio Cardona portrayed Jesus, carrying the cross as he has since 1990. The 66-year-old fork lift operator said the day’s events have special religious and civic meanings.

“It’s a way to show the people what Christ did for us,” Cardona said. “I do it to show the love God has for us.”

Cardona said the procession brings together members of different ethnic groups not just from Vineland, but from Bridgeton and Millville.

“It shows how Christ wants us all to be together,” Cardona said.

Vineland resident Carmen Romero said she has been attending the annual procession for about 20 years.

“This is a day of reflection,” Romero said. “This was a sacrifice for us.”

Vineland was rocked this week by the fatal shooting of two men and the wounding of two other people. Romero said she hoped that the city would use Good Friday and the procession to come together and make the municipality stronger.

“We can work together,” she said.

Romero watched at the procession proceed along Almond Street. Those making the march recited prayers and the Stations of the Cross.

The procession was followed by a service at 3 p.m.

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Senior copy editor for the Press of Atlantic City. Have worked as a reporter, copy editor and news editor with the paper since 1985. A graduate of the University of Delaware.

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