Ash Wednesday Rituals Adjusted for COVID-19 Safety
Today, Catholic churches across the country are celebrating Ash Wednesday under the odd circumstances of a worldwide pandemic. Many Tuscaloosa Catholic churches have modified their traditional services to help prevent the further spread of COVID-19 and to keep worshippers safe.
A May 2020 update to Gov. Kay Ivey's “safer-at-home” order allows church services to be held in-person in Alabama. But attending church in-person might not be a safe move because there is an “extremely high risk” of contracting the Coronavirus in Tuscaloosa County, according to a New York Times case tracker.
If you prefer to celebrate in-person, though, Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Tuscaloosa has resumed their regular weekend and daily mass schedule. They’re also providing a live-stream for those who would prefer to observe Ash Wednesday from home.
"We don't want to be an instrument in sharing the virus in any way at all," said Father Michael Deering of Holy Spirit Church.
At St. Francis University Parish Church on Paul W. Bryant Dr., in-person mass for Ash Wednesday is also taking place but is requiring worshippers to sign-up ahead of time to prevent overcrowding. Additionally, ashes will be sprinkled on top of heads from above rather than having a priest touch the foreheads of every congregant to spread ashes.
Supplementary safety guidelines were published ahead of Ash Wednesday by a group of “clergy, theologians, liturgical scholars, and public health officials,” for churches and congregants to practice safely, according to religionnews.com.
- If possible, attend outdoor services with no more than 30 people or celebrate at home
- Place ashes on yourself and/or use hand sanitizer if placing ashes on others
- Avoid traffic-jams if ashes are distributed in a drive-through method
- Wear a mask
- Stay six feet apart
The general opinion of West Alabama Catholic churches seems to be that while practicing Lent is important, protecting the lives and safety of their churchgoers comes first.