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Praying the steps: A personal pilgrimage with a communal approach (Schedule of Events)

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steps at HCI
Pilgrims pray the steps at Holy Cross-Immaculata Church. (Courtesy Photo)

By John Stegeman
The Catholic Telegraph 

Sometime in the 1870s, the traditional of “Praying the Steps” at Holy Cross-Immaculata Church began.

It’s history is well known. In 1859 Archbishop John J. Purcell had the steps constructed to ease pilgrims ways as they came to pray for the completion of the church. Sometime over the next decade or two the steps became a pilgrimage for Good Friday.

There are 96 steps from St. Gregory Street to Holy Cross-Immaculata Church, and most people start there. Some, according to a St. Anthony Messenger article, start all the way down near Columbia Parkway.

Ask any Catholic you know and you’ll find they know someone who prays the steps, it is a deeply personal event as much as a communal one. On each step, the parish website reports that people once said an Our Father and a Hail Mary. Jim Steiner, parish archivist and author of Immaculata on Mt. Adams: A One-Hundred and Fifty Year History, says that there is no official way to pray the steps.

“It depends on the person,” Steiner said. “Everybody does it differently. Some will (say an Our Father and Hail Mary), others will say a different prayer on every step. They’ll remember a family member or just have individual personal thoughts. Some will just get on the steps to clear their mind and hope to get a word from above.”

Continuing a newer tradition, one Steiner said was established sometime after the arrival of current pastor Father Martin Moran, confession will be available both outside at the viewing platform at the top of the stairs, and also in the church inside the confessional.

Holy Cross-Immaculata Church

Though everyone prays the steps their own way, the event is attended by thousands each year from around the area and around the world. Sometimes there’s a wait to climb the steps, and while you’re in line, visit hci.mjbapp.com with your mobile browser to download the free Holy Cross-Immaculata app. The app was developed by parishioner Eric Turner two years ago.

The pilgrimage effectively starts at midnight, Friday morning, and runs all day. Below is the official Good Friday schedule for Holy Cross-Immaculata.

March 29, Good Friday

Midnight — Blessing of the pilgrims, with Auxiliary Bishop Joseph R. Binzer.

6 a.m.-1 p.m. — Donuts and coffee in the parish center

9:30 a.m. — Morning Prayer

9:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m. — Confession (in church and at top of steps)

2 p.m. — Celebration of the Passion of the Lord with Passion Narrative

3 p.m.-7 p.m. — Fish Fry in parish center

6 p.m. — Stations of the Cross (in church)

7 p.m. — Celebration of the Passion of the Lord with Passion Narrative

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