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Good Friday Tradition Praying The Steps Returns To Mt. Adams

Tana Weingartner
People 'pray the steps' at Holy Cross-Immaculata in 2014.

A Cincinnati Good Friday tradition is back this year.

The faithful can once again climb and pray the steps at Holy Cross-Immaculata Parish in Mt. Adams Friday morning. The annual event was canceled for the first time in 2020 because of the pandemic.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine lifted many COVID-19 restrictions for church services and the mayor gave the parish permission to proceed with "plans to provide a safe environment for the large crowds who are likely to be present."

The annual fish fry and other social aspects are still canceled, though the church is open for prayer and there will be a worship service at 7 p.m. Social distancing and face coverings are required inside the church.

Those who are immunocompromised or with other health concerns were encouraged to pray the steps earlier in the week.

People from the around the world have been coming to Mt. Adams to pray the steps since the tradition began in the late 1850s.

History Of Praying The Steps

Holy Cross-Immaculata recounts the history of the annual Good Friday tradition:

The tradition of praying the steps began in the late 1850s when Archbishop Purcell asked people to climb the hillside, praying that enough money would be raised to build Immaculata Church. No one seems to know for certain why the tradition of praying the steps on Good Friday developed, but each year thousands of people from all 50 states and even international visitors of all faiths make a pilgrimage to the holy site. For many area families, it is an annual tradition. No matter the weather, area faithful climb the steps, one by one, from the base of the steps to the church.
In the early days, 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, middle steps, or lower steps. The upper steps begin on St. Gregory Street just below the church entrance, and the middle steps begin on Columbia Parkway. The lower steps, which begin on Riverside Drive (formerly Eastern Avenue) across from the Montgomery Inn Boathouse, were repaired in 2009 and now feature wider steps, pedestrian-scaled lighting, and new landscaping and signage. There is also an improved pedestrian overlook at the top of the steps, just outside the main entrance to Immaculata Church.

Senior Editor and reporter at WVXU with more than 20 years experience in public radio; formerly news and public affairs producer with WMUB. Would really like to meet your dog.