Pandemic brings changes to Ash Wednesday services

RAPID CITY, S.D. —The COVID-19 pandemic can’t stop Ash Wednesday — the first day of the six-week Lenten season in the Christian church, leading up to Easter — but it is causing some changes.

Traditionally, Christians attend Ash Wednesday services at which he minister makes the sign of the cross with ashes on their foreheads.

OLPH CathedralBut the ritual will be slightly different at Catholic churches this year, following guidance from the Vatican.

Instead of putting ashes directly on parishioners’ foreheads, priests will sprinkle ashes on their heads.

“Catholics, at least in our country, are used to having their ashes kind of put on their foreheads by the finger of the priest,” said Bishop Peter Muhich of the Rapid City Diocese. “And because of that physical contact, worries about spreading the virus, we will use the same words as usual, but just once over everyone, so we’re not saying it in front of people directly. And then we’ll sprinkle a little ash on their heads instead of tracing the sign of the cross on their foreheads.”

The bishop said parish priests will follow the same protocol in their churches, adding that they’ll also be masking and maintaining social distance.

The Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Hope will hold three Ash Wednesday services at 7:00 a.m., 12:00 p.m., and 5:30 p.m..

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