Hundreds to Make Good Friday Cross Walk in Cincinnati
Featured in our April issue, the annual Good Friday Cross Walk sponsored by Regnum Christi Ohio Valley will be held Friday. See the end of the story for how to register.
By Gail Finke
“Don’t judge,” Brother Vinh Pham told the 250 people about to begin a Good Friday journey from Cincinnati’s cathedral to Mount Adams on foot last year, stopping along the way to ask people they met if they could pray for them at the historic church.
“Smile – joy breaks all barriers. Our goal is to give the love of Christ, to meet people, know them, encounter them and enter into their lives; to let them know they’re loved. Many are hungry for spiritual love.”
The Good Friday Cross Walk is part of the Regnum Christi “Holy Week Mission” program. Held in 14 North American cities and at sites around the world, it is a mission experience for young people, adults, and families that combines direct service to others, prayer, and the sacraments with observance of the holiest days of the year. The Cross Walk is different in each site but involves a walking pilgrimage to a major church for the celebration of the Passion.
Like Jesus and those who walked to Calvary with Him, the participants carry a cross. At each stop along the way, they offer to bring people’s prayers with them, write each prayer on a slip of paper, and nail it to the cross.
While many Cross Walks end at a cathedral, Cincinnati’s ends at Holy Cross-Immaculata Church, where thousands come every Good Friday to “pray the steps.” Would-be missionaries do not need to belong to Regnum Christi, and can sign up to attend either the three-day mission, or the walk alone.
Carl and his family have attended a Holy Week Mission since 2005, when they traveled to Chicago and participated in door-to-door ministry inviting people to Easter Mass. Soon, other families from Royalmont Academy in Mason, which is run by Regnum Christi, were traveling along. “It just became part of everyone’s story,” he said at the 2017 Cross Walk, the fifth held in Cincinnati.
Begonia attended numerous Crosswalks in her native Mexico. Twenty-five thousand people, she said, would “spend a whole week in ‘extreme’ Mission” because of the poverty and primitive living conditions in the areas being served. American urban life is different, she said, but the mission and the faith are the same throughout the world and “today, in many countries, we are praying for each other.”
Legionaries of Christ Father Matthew Summe was one of the leaders of five groups of missioners who set out on the walk, each taking a different route to Mount Adams. He spoke to the whole group at the cathedral before Legionary priests gave each participant a missionary cross to wear and Bishop Joseph R. Binzer blessed the endeavor.
“The missionary aspect of Christianity is not just a nice thing to do in your free time,” he said. “It is an essential part of the Christian life. When we walk through the streets, we’re not just ourselves. It’s not all about us, it’s all about God. He is the redeemer. He is the savior of the world.
“Prepare your hearts to give,” he exhorted the teens, high schoolers, and young adults who packed the pews with families and a few dozen chaperones. “When you ask for people’s prayers, don’t be afraid, don’t be nervous, don’t be embarrassed – be courageous. We are going to finish on top of a hill. We are going to shine over the city with the joy of the Gospel.”
Walking through the streets of Over-the-Rhine with his group, Father Summe said he had attended several Holy Week Missions in Brazil, where missionaries visited small towns. Wherever the Missions are held, he said, the goal is the same: “to make God present in the world.” Organizers of the first Holy Week Mission in Cincinnati had a goal of 30 participants. Its quick growth to more than 200, he said, “shows the health of the church here.”
Susan and Andy came from Harrison with their four children, who attend three different Catholic schools. “It’s great, it makes me step out of my comfort zone a bit,” Andy said. “It really shows you how many people have needs, and how they want you to pray for them.”
At each stop the young people fanned out, telling everyone they met what they were doing. Whether homeless or business people on their way to lunch or an appointment, the people listened with interest, and almost all asked for a prayer:
“For Theresa.” “For Diego.” “For Willie’s daughter in the hospital.” “For Tyler to convert.” “For sobriety.” “For keeping my family together.” “For peace in Ethiopia.” “For Paul – that he may get hired permanently.” “To have a blessed day and stay out of trouble.” “For Debbie and for all who suffer.” “Give me the power to go on.”
A colored slip of paper and a nail for each prayer. By the time the five groups met up at the top of Mount Adams, the wooden crosses were each a patchwork of color.
Brother Vinh, a seminarian with the Legionaries, led another of the groups and ate lunch with them in the Holy Cross-Immaculata parking lot. The event, he said, “is a thread in the fabric of our charism,” which focuses on “the Passion of Christ.” A priest visiting from Ireland greeted the group with some bewilderment – the throngs of eager young people were not, apparently, what he had been told to expect from Ohio.
After finishing their packed lunches, the groups began to head into the church.
They would hear Bishop Binzer lead the celebrattion of the Passion, and then climb the famed steps with pilgrims from around the region, praying for the people they had met, before assembling back at the cathedral for dinner and to share their encounters. The day, said Carl, is just what he and the others who had first worked to bring it Cincinnati would be: a way for Catholics to help bring the good news of Christ outside their churches and to the world.
“The thing that is wrong in the world is sin,” he said. “And the way to overcome sin is zeal.”
For information about Cross Walk, visit Cincymissions.weebly.com and see “Good Friday Cross Walk Track.” Participants should be able to walk the disance from the cathedral to Holy Cross-Immaculata and back. Registration is $15; same-day registration is also available.