PITTSBURGH, PA

Seven-church visit tradition traces its roots to early church

Friday, March 22, 2002 - Updated: 12:01 am
John Franko, Staff Writer
When thousands of diocesan faithful take part in the
traditional seven-church visit on Holy Thursday, they will
follow an ancient practice that traces it roots back to
Rome and the early church.

It is believed that early pilgrims first visited the seven
major basilicas ? St. John Lateran, St. Peter, St. Mary
Major, St. Paul-Outside-the-Walls, St.
Lawrence-Outside-the-Walls, St.
Sebastian-Outside-the-Walls and Holy
Cross-in-Jerusalem ? as penance.

The seven developed as sites for pilgrimages after
Pope Boniface VIII revived the tradition in 1300.

The diocese has a long tradition of the practice, much
of it due the support of the Holy Name Society.

The diocesan society publishes a book of prayers to be
used during the visits, and many of its members lead
their various parishes to the churches.

At St. Vitus in New Castle, more than 100 Holy Name
members will be among the some 200 people in four
buses that will make visits to churches in the northern
part of the diocese.

?It?s been part of the parish for so long,? said organizer
John Costa, who has made the visits for some 35
years.

Costa said the parish once had as many as six buses
for the visits. He said it has always had good
participation because the area has a high number of
people of Italian descent and many parishioners had
brought the practice with them from Italy.

Father Joseph Reschick, pastor of St. Rosalia in
Pittsburgh?s Greenfield neighborhood, said the visits
remind people of Jesus? struggle in the Garden of
Gethsemane.

?We see it as spending time with Jesus as the
apostles did,? he said.

Some 45 people were expected to take part in the
parish visits that will include St. Mary of Mercy in
Downtown Pittsburgh, Mercy Hospital Chapel, St. Mary
of the Mount in Pittsburgh?s Mount Washington
neighborhood, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Carnegie, St.
Margaret in Green Tree and SS. Simon and Jude in
Scott Township.

?It really makes you focus on Good Friday and Easter
Sunday, and it brings it all together,? said George
Murtagh, who will take part in the visits along with his
wife, Ruth.

Some 40 people were expected to take part in the visits
hosted by St. Cyril of Alexandria in Pittsburgh?s Brighton
Heights neighborhood.

The tour includes visits to St. Teresa of Avila in
Perrsyville, St. Sebastian in Ross Township, St. Alexis,
SS. John and Paul in Franklin Park, and St. Alphonsus
in Wexford, St. John Neumann in Franklin Park and
Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Bellevue.

Organizer William Sippel said the parishioners look
forward to visiting different churches. ?A lot of the people
have never seen the inside of them, and they are in
awe.?

Mary Jordan, pastoral minister at St. Richard in
Gibsonia, said about 40 people were expected to join
that parish?s tour. ?It?s really renewing,? she said.

Churches to be visited included All Saints in Etna, Holy
Spirit in Millvale, Holy Family in Pittsburgh?s
Lawrenceville neighborhood, Immaculate Conception
and St. Joseph in Pittsburgh?s Bloomfield
neighborhood and Immaculate Heart of Mary in
Pittsburgh?s Polish Hill neighborhood.

Those wishing copies of the Holy Name Society?s
book of prayers should contact its office at
412-921-5800.


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