Churches adapt with contactless Ash Wednesday ceremonies
ST. JOSEPH, Mich. -- Ash Wednesday services looked different this year, with churches going with a contactless ceremony in accordance with Vatican guidelines set last month aiming to prevent any coronavirus infections.
“We can keep contact from being there and when people come forward for ashes we have them separate so we’re able to keep everybody as safe as possible,” said Father John Fleckenstein with Saint Joseph Catholic Church.
Ashes being sprinkled on top of parishioners’ heads rather than placed on their foreheads. In the United States, this is a new look to what we consider the traditional ritual – but actually, the pandemic has created a unique opportunity for Catholics and some Protestants to commemorate the start of Lenten season the way it was always intended to be.
Father Fleckenstein saying this can be a teachable moment for Christians.
“It goes back to the Old Testament, it wasn’t until modern times that we started to impose ashes on the head, but many countries – Poland, Italy – they continue to do that, it’s never been on the forehead,” said Fr. Fleckenstein.
Parishioners – like former State Senator John Proos and his wife, Kristy – just grateful to be back inside their church.
“Just a couple times throughout the pandemic we’ve come, but it’s given us the opportunity to at home, too,” said Kristy. “While the Bishop has allowed us to not be in Mass because of the pandemic, that normalcy of being in your home church is really what’s missing,” said John.
That normalcy – also helping with pandemic fatigue.
“This is one of the opportunities we have to examine ourselves, teach our kids, since they’re little, how we have to conduct our lives,” said Anna Blazo, a St. Joseph resident.
There are no guidelines right now from the Vatican on any big changes to Easter services this year, but Saint Joseph Catholic Church plans to still have social distancing between pews and mask wearing.