A special end to an amazing journey – right here in the Tri-State. The longest Marian pilgrimage in the United States is ending up in Cincinnati.
Men and women young and old have been carrying a special statue of the Virgin Mary from parish to parish for more than 300 miles – the long trek will reach its end Saturday on the bicentennial of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, which has a profound impact on the region.
In the history of religions of the world, many people around the globe have carried statues of the Virgin Mary, but the one we’re witnessing here locally isn’t to a sacred site – every stop on this tour celebrates a sacred connection.
The 33-day pilgrimage saw the statue being moved to each of the 33 parishes that make up the Archdiocese of Cincinnati – which was organized 200 years ago.
On the city’s West Side – Mary moved from St. Ignatius to Our Lady of Lourdes.
“Well, you know, you only turn 200 once,” said Father David Endres.
He wrote the book on the history of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, literally. “A Bicentennial History of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati” is filled with stories of one of the city’s biggest religious institutions – like how praying the steps at Immaculata came to be.
“That has to do with a vow that Archbishop Purcell made,” Endres said. “He was crossing from Europe to the United States and he was caught in a bad storm and he said, ‘Lord, if you allow me to make it through, I’m going to build a church on the highest hill.’”
When he was building that church, people wore a path into the hillside to see the new house of worship.
“So, they started praying the steps and now, goodness, you know decades and decades of people have been doing that,” Endres said.
The bicentennial edition of the Catholic Telegraph has a picture of step climbers past and present. The archive has the very first edition from 190 years ago, as well as ceremonial ordination wine casks, journals from church leaders, pictures of saints who visited and – perhaps the oldest relic – a vestment Bishop Fenwick wore when he asked Catholic communities in Europe for money to start his new Diocese here in America. It eventually spanned from Ohio to Michigan and into Wisconsin.
“This involves a lot of basically saddleback, you know, kind of ministry,” Endres said. “Where they’re literally going through the state.”
Humble roots that gave birth to the great institution that is known today.
“The importance of our parishes, schools, health care and charities – it’s impossible to be a resident of Cincinnati and not be impacted by the Catholic Church,” Endres said.
Which, in the considerable good, has had struggles, too. But faith moves them forward into the next 100 years.
Father Endres sent a quiz based on the things we talked about in our story. See how well you were paying attention:
1) What is the name of the first Catholic bishop of Cincinnati?
Edward D. Fenwick, O.P.
2) What states were encompassed by the Diocese of Cincinnati at its founding?
Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin
3) What is the name of the Cincinnati Catholic publication that was begun in 1831 and is still published today?
The Catholic Telegraph
4) Name a saint who visited the Archdiocese of Cincinnati
St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa); St. John Neumann
5) What is this?
A sick call set, used by a priest for anointing of the sick (last rites)