Ash Wednesday at Toledo Diocese and others completely different amid pandemic

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PORT CLINTON – While Ash Wednesday may be different for many this year, local parishioners who wish to partake of the Christian tradition at the start of Lent have options across the region.

The question of how the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic will affect traditional Ash Wednesday services is one Bishop Daniel E. Thomasfrom the Catholic Diocese of Toledo said he had been asked.

The issue was raised a number of times on the final episode of his radio show “The Bishop’s Corner,” which airs every Thursday at 4:30 pm on WHRQ 88.1 in Port Clinton, answering questions from listeners.

Thomas explained that it is up to each pastor in their own parishes to determine what the best practical judgment is regarding the distribution of ashes for their respective congregations, citing a memorandum from the Holy See or the Vatican.

However, Thomas pointed out that the memo also includes recommendations on various ways to specifically distribute ashes during a pandemic.

“During the pandemic, you can disperse ashes in an older way,” he said. “The reality is, there is an older path than (the cross) on the forehead that we are familiar with.”

In this “older” path, ashes are scattered on the crown of the head.

According to the memo, the method is common in other parts of the world and numerous popes received and distributed ashes in this way, “as it is reminiscent of the biblical example of wearing sackcloth and ashes to atone for one’s sinfulness.”

However, it is not mandatory to use this method.

“(Pastors are) welcome to distribute ashes either way, depending on the pastoral needs of their community,” said Thomas.

He also noted that receiving ashes on Ash Wednesday is voluntary as there is no rule that requires Catholics to do so.

But for those who choose to partake in the tradition, Thomas doesn’t think it should be a greater risk.

“Everyone wears a mask,” he said. “I don’t see any greater danger, or greater compromise, or greater risk in distributing ashes on Ash Wednesday than in distributing community.”

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The Church of the Immaculate Conception, 414 Madison St., Port Clinton, will hold its Ash Wednesday services at 8:30 a.m., with Ashes at 12:15 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.

Fremont St. Ann and St. Joseph Catholic Wards hold services on Ash Wednesday at 8:00 am and 12:00 noon for St. Ann Church, 1021 W. State St., and at 5:00 pm for St. Joseph Church, 709 Croghan St.

“Due to COVID, the schedule this year is a little different from previous years,” said Rev. Michael Roemmele.

Roemmele also noted that it is not a holy day of engagement, but they would surely love to see those who are safe to attend on Wednesday.

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And not only the Catholic diocese does it differently this year.

St. John’s Lutheran Church at 705 W. State St., Fremont has a car service on Ash Wednesday at 7:00 p.m.

Minister Maureen Pump stated that the service will take place in St. John’s parking lot and that the service will include communion and ashes which will be safely distributed to each vehicle upon entry.

As with their other Drive-In Church services, the Ash Wednesday service is open to all.

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