BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Honoring tradition and faith is more important now than ever before, according to Western New York faith leaders. As many residents gather to celebrate the Easter Holiday, Rev. Fred Betti and Monsignor David LiPuma are excited to reunite with their parishioners, some for the first time in two years.

“This past couple of years with not being able to gather has been a struggle for many people but we’ve learned a lot,” Monsignor LiPuma told News 4. “When we gather, we support each other and we strengthen each other. [It is great] just to be able to fill the Basilica with people shoulder to shoulder and to say, ‘Wow, we are together.’“

This weekend marks Easter, which is the Christian holiday that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Jewish holiday of Passover celebrates the liberation of Israelites from Egypt, while Ramadan is a time of fasting, prayer and reflection in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar.

At St. Michaels Church in Downtown Buffalo, religious leaders re-imaged the Good Friday Stations of the Cross Service, embracing the Theatre District, and taking the procession outside.

“We’ve been here 170 years, so we’re in part of the environment of downtown. People come here from all over Western New York,” Rev. Fred Betti, S.J. added. “Because of who we are and where we are, we’ve decided to take the Stations of the Cross to the streets.”

For Our Lady of Victory Basilica in Lackawanna, it was a traditional service that brought families and friends back together to celebrate as one again.

“We know with everything going on in the church, in society, the world and Ukraine. We all need hope,” Monsignor LiPuma said. “I’ve noticed, especially this past week, people have come back, as they did for traditions with their family and they friends.”

As many families and friends will celebrate their respective faiths this weekend, both Monsignor LiPuma and Rev. Betti agree that it is great to be back.

“I think so many people have just been waiting for a time to be together with no restrictions and no distancing,” Rev. Betti said. “I think people just want to celebrate with each other what we are as Buffalo and our faith community.”

Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.