Celebrating Good Friday at Shrine of the Sacred Heart, Columbia Heights, DC

From the Collection: As part of the Museum’s documentation of communities of faith, museum photographer Susana Raab photographed the Good Friday Procession at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart on April 14, 2017.

Members of the Shrine of the Sacred Heart wait in front of the church before beginning their procession through Mt. Pleasant and Columbia Heights on Good Friday. Photograph by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

If you spend any time in Latin America around Easter you may be familiar with the ritual of Good Friday processions just prior to the celebration of Easter Sunday.  Every year, penitents and clergy gather to reenact the crucifixion, on the path known as the Via Dolorosa, or “Way of Grief” in Latin.  Processing on foot, and bearing biers with images of Saints, the Virgin Mary, and Jesus, the marchers perform this act of penance in commemoration of Jesus’ sacrifice of his life for mankind’s sins.

A young parishioner dressed as a Roman soldier waits to begin the procession outside the Shrine of the Sacred Heart on Good Friday. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Here in Washington, DC, perhaps no other parish is as identified with carrying on this tradition as the Shrine of the Sacred Heart.  Established in 1899, this Roman Catholic church in the Mount Pleasant/Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, DC has a long history of social justice ministry.  Run by the Franciscan Capuchin Order, it is the spiritual home to many Latin American families, including a large population of Salvadoran-Americans.

A penitent reenacts the role of Jesus Christ on the Via Dolorosa, his last walk with the cross before being crucified. Photo by Susana Raab/Anacosita Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

In 2017, the procession began at the church at 3211 Sacred Heart Way, moving past townhomes on Park Road before entering Mount Pleasant Street, continuing on Irving Street NW to 14th Street NW in Columbia Heights, and forming a loop that ends at the church.

Numbering several hundred people, the procession travelled in a wide loop, traversing through the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood before reaching 14th Street in Columbia Heights on Park Rd. Various songs and hymns were sung in different languages within the procession, representing the Latin American, Vietnamese, and Haitian immigrants who have found a spiritual home at the Shrine of the Sacred Heart. A Haitian man held his hand to his heart as he brought the Virgin Mary back to the Church at the end of the procession. Over an hour later, the parishioners return the Shrine to say Mass on after the Good Friday Procession.

The procession walked past row houses on the streets of Mt. Pleasant before heading through the central commercial district on Mt. Pleasant Avenue.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacosita Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

The youngest penitents in the procession dressed as shepherds.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

A life-size Jesus in a coffin was borne on the backs of a group of men, who carried their heavy burden while singing hymns in unison with the crowd that grew in numbers  as they approached the heart of Mt. Pleasant on Mt. Pleasant Street.
Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution

Photo by Susana Raab/Anacostia Community Museum/Smithsonian Institution