Saturday, March 30, 2002

Good Friday a time of hope

Observances new and traditional

By Tom O'Neill,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        To a backdrop of wounds both ancient and fresh, Good Friday again brought to Tristate Christians its lesson of hope.

        A year ago, some Good Friday events were canceled or curtailed because of safety concerns and the citywide curfew in the wake of rioting.

[photo] The faithful pray as they climb the steps leading to Holy Cross-Immaculata Church in Mount Adams in the 143-year-old Good Friday tradition known as “praying the steps.”
(Gary Landers photo)
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        The racial divisions in Cincinnati, and the national heartbreak of Sept. 11, made this year's Good Friday observances more poignant, many said.

        In Mount Adams, one annual Good Friday event turned 143 years old. In Walnut Hills, another was born.

        “This is the day Christ died on the cross for our sins,” Olga Scott, 55, of Over-the-Rhine, said at Fountain Square, moments before the 19th annual Way of the Cross/Way of Justice procession.

        She didn't walk alone. She brought her four grandchildren: Rayshawn, 12; Dashawn, 8; Camilla, 3; and C.J., 2.

        “Have hope,” she said of the day's meaning for her grandchildren. “Peace. Because we're having a war here too, and kids need to know that.”

        As late-morning sunshine bathed Fountain Square in warmth, violence escalated in the Mideast. During set-up on the Square stage, head sound engineer Tim Sylvester of the Cincinnati Recreation Commission called the situation there “crazy.”

        “I'd love for it to go away, but there's always been trouble,” the 25-year-old Hyde Park man said, “since the beginning of time. Americans have a way of living, and I think that's going to change. I'm just not sure how.”

        Mr. Sylvester's work complete, Sister Monica McGloin gave the call to worship to the crowd of hundreds. She then accompanied them on the procession to Washington Park in Over-the-Rhine. Along the route, worshipers stopped to remember the stations of the cross — Jesus' day of dying.

        According to the World Book encyclopedia, the historical records of Good Friday observances date to the second century when it was a day of fasting.

        By the last half of the fourth century, Good Friday had evolved into a day of solemn prayers and readings about Jesus' death on the cross.

        “We can look back at historical things,” said Sister McGloin, of the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center in Over-the-Rhine. “But we have to look ahead.”

        As she spoke, Sayrah Namaste, 26, of Walnut Hills, stood nearby, cradling her daughter, Marsaya, 1, in her arms.

        “It seems we need to apply Jesus' teachings to today's world,” Ms. Namaste said, “and I don't always see that.”

        While many felt very connected to disheartening news events abroad, she didn't.

        “9-11 and the Mideast, I don't think of them when I'm here,” Ms. Namaste said. “My mind has been on the people of Cincinnati.”

Way of Calvary

        That was the impetus for the early-evening Way of Calvary walk in Walnut Hills, in its first year.

        And in quiet reflection Friday morning, hundreds gathered on the steps of Holy Cross-Immaculata Church in Mount Adams to begin a prayer tradition that is now in its 143rd year.

        At each of the church's steps, people stopped and prayed — for peace amid conflict, for togetherness amid division, for others and for themselves.

        Steve Igel, 46, of Finneytown, said his purpose was to continue to instill in his two daughters, Kaitlyn, 12, and Jenna, 9, the value of faith. That's what his parents taught him as a child.

        “It's a tradition for us,” he said, “as long as I can remember, since we carried them.”

        Like Mr. Igel, many attending Friday's event were long-timers. Conversely, Katie Manning, 32, of Fort Thomas, was a first-timer.

        “I've always heard of this,” the teacher said, “but I always had to work.”

        She was joined Friday morning by Jennifer Boeh, 31, of Pleasant Ridge, who said, “I've always lived in Cincinnati, and for years have wanted to do this. Church and faith, for me, are more important now.”

        The Rev. Stanley Neiheisel knows well not just the tradition of his church, but what fuels it.

        “I think this is just a show of appreciation for what the Lord does for them,” he said. “And it's people saying, "My grandmother brought me' and it's passed on that way, generation to generation, and there's a beauty in that.”

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