CINCINNATI — As Palm Sunday came to a close, many worshippers were acclimating to a Holy Week that's already set to be unlike any experienced in recent history.
Parishes across the Tri-State region have canceled all in-person services in light of the COVID-19 outbreak, including Good Friday and Easter Sunday Services. Most churches are offering online services for congregations to participate in, but the annual tradition of praying the steps at Holy Cross Immaculata Church in Mt. Adams is a century-old tradition that's also been canceled.
"The most sacred week of the church year and all the services are canceled," said Father Len Fecko, with Holy Cross Immaculata Church. "No one would ever think that would happen in their lifetime."
For almost 160 years, pilgrims would come to the Mt. Adams church on Good Friday and slowly climb the 96 steps from St. Gregory Street up to the church, praying or reflecting on their way up. Once at the top, people could confess to a priest or grab donuts, coffee or a fish sandwich to celebrate completing the steps.
"It's a big deal," said Amy Obermeyer, who attends the Holy Cross Immaculata Church. "There's a lot of sadness about the praying of the steps being canceled."
People can still engage in the experience of praying the steps safely from home: The church filmed the blessing of the steps and a service will still air on its website for Good Friday.
Over in Pleasant Ridge, at St. Peter's United Church of Christ, the Rev. Derek Terry said now is a good time for Christians to find new meaning in Holy Week and to remember one important thing:
"Church is not in the building," he said. "We can worship in our homes and bring the church into our homes."
This is a sentiment Father Fecko echoed as well, saying that although the holidays will be different this year, it doesn't mean that people can't still pray as one from their homes.
Once COVID-19 passes, Holy Cross Immaculata Church does plan to reschedule the praying the steps. They're hoping to accomplish it in August, around the Feast of the Assumption.