Holy Cross-Immaculata Church on Mt. Adams has been drawing Good Friday pilgrims since the 19th Century. (Photo courtesy of the church)
At left, Fr. Kyle Schnippel, temporary parochial administrator of Holy Cross-Immaculata. At right, the statue of St. Patrick that is traditionally "stolen" each spring. (Photos by L. Hobson)
CINCINNATI - The Tri-State is rich in the number and variety of houses of worship. In our weekly feature, WCPO shines the spotlight on where we pray.
Known around the Tri-State for it's annual "pray the steps" tradition, Holy Cross-Immaculata has a rich history connected to the Irish and German communities in the region.
During a return trip from Europe in the 1850's, Archbishop John Baptist Purcell was beset by a storm while crossing the Atlantic Ocean. Praying for safe deliverance, he promised the Blessed Virgin Mary that if she would guide them home safely, he would construct a church in her honor on the highest point of the city. Soon thereafter, the storm broke and the ship made it to port in the US safely. Thus, this church was born.
PHOTOS: Cincy faithful 'pray the steps' in Mount Adams
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“As I drive around the city, it is always nice to look up and see Mary guiding us home. Not just to a earthly residence, but to know that she always points us closer to her son. It is our hope here at Immaculata that when people of our city look up the hill, they might be reminded of God’s constant guidance in their lives.” -- Fr. Kyle Schnippel
The parish was soon constructed in Mount Adams, funded by personal donations--including from Archbishop Purcell himself. The first mass was said in December 1860.
As the Catholic community in Mount Adams grew, Holy Cross Monastery was formed in 1873 and served the Irish community. German Catholics, meanwhile, found a home at Immaculata, which also housed a parish grade school for many years with the Sisters of Charity serving as instructors.
Due to changing demographics in Mt. Adams, the two parishes merged in 1970. The Passionists , who served at Holy Cross Monastery, continued to serve as pastors of the combined Holy Cross-Immaculata Parish until 1996, when diocesan priests began serving as the pastors. MORE
The current church remains mostly intact from the original structure. Support columns within the church building had to be added in the early 2000s to help support the roof structure. Also, the interior has been repainted a number of times, but the overall layout of the structure and property has remained the same. The style is Gothic.
Oil paintings created by Covington artist Johann Schmitt in 1862 are displayed in the sanctuary. They depict the life of Mary.
The church is popular for weddings because it has a beautiful setting. Also, many people just stop by to pray whenever they are in Mount Adams, a practice the parish welcomes.
Praying the Steps
Holy Cross-Immaculata Church is best known as the Church of the Steps, due to the 19th Century tradition of the Good Friday pilgrimage on the steps leading up to the church. Numbering in the thousands, the faithful gather on that day to commemorate the atoning death of Jesus Christ and pray on each step as people ascend from either Riverside Drive, Columbia Parkway, or just the last section up from St. Gregory Street.
There are no set prayers to say; participants spend time praying, reflecting, uniting their own sufferings with the sufferings of Christ. To greet the pilgrims, the parish hosts a fish fry on Good Friday, which also serves as one of its chief fundraisers. MORE
The parish also has a festival the first weekend of August. Since the church is privileged to serve as a community focus for the entire Mount Adams community, the festival reflects that involvement. Many of the residents, even non-Catholic, help out with the event.
Stealing of St. Patrick's statue
The Ancient Order of Hibernians holds a mass Holy Cross-Immaculata in the early spring. When the two parishes on Mount Adams merged, several items from Holy Cross were brought to Immaculata, including a statue of St. Patrick. The Hibernians ‘steal’ him every year around his feast day on March 17.
Who worships at Holy Cross-Immaculata?
The parish reflects Mount Adams demographics. Parishioners include families who have generational roots on Mount Adams, older couples who have moved here to escape the suburbs, and young families who are raising their children here. There is also a vibrant young adult community at the parish.
Connect with Holy Cross-Immaculata Church online or by telephone: (513) 721-6544