CINCINNATI -- Since midnight, people have been braving falling temperatures to climb the steps from close to river-level to the Church of the Immaculata atop Mount Adams in a Good Friday tradition that dates back 156 years.
The tradition starts with the blessing of the steps by Bishop Joseph Binzer at midnight, and then people are welcome to come at any time throughout Good Friday to "pray the steps." The idea is to say a silent prayer or scripture on each of the more than 100 steps.
“There is no one way to pray the steps,” said Father Todd Grogan, parochial administrator at Holy Cross-Immaculata parish. “Some people pray the rosary, some read verses of the bible, others engage in prayer or silent reflection - it’s a very personal experience.”
Visiting priests are available inside and outside the church all day to hear confession. Donuts and coffee are available from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m., and there will be Passion services at 2 and 7 p.m. as well as a fish fry from 3 to 7 p.m. in the parish center.
According to church representatives, the tradition started around 1860 when the church was under construction. They say the faithful climbed a dirt path until wooden steps were built, followed by concrete steps in 1911.
Today, those visiting the steps can choose to begin from one of three locations. The upper steps begin on St. Gregory Street just below the church entrance, and the middle steps begin on Columbia Parkway. The lower steps begin on Riverside Drive across from the Montgomery Inn Boathouse.
“Each year our parish looks forward to opening our doors to the thousands of pilgrims who visit,” said Father Grogan. “Some people think we are a church that is only open on Good Friday. In fact, we are a vibrant parish with over 250 families from Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana who are active in our many spiritual and social activities throughout the year.”
The parish encourages visitors to donate canned or non-perishable food items for Hope Emergency Program, a non-profit outreach agency that helps residents of Brown County. Of specific need are items like canned fruits and vegetables, peanut butter, soups, canned meats and pastas, cereals, and juices. Food collection barrels will be available at the church all day on Good Friday and throughout the Holy Week events.
The parish also hosts an Easter Vigil at 8:45 p.m. Saturday and two Easter masses at 8 and 10:30 a.m. Sunday.