A number of churches across Cork are preparing to mark Ash Wednesday using innovative alternatives, with one West Cork church providing a ‘drive-thru’ service, while others will offer a ‘collection’.
Across the Diocese of Cork and Ross, a number of churches have received special envelopes that will be used to hold the ashes and safely distribute them to the public.
The Church of the Immaculate Conception in Clonakilty will be providing locals with the opportunity to collect their ashes in the envelopes through a socially distant ‘drive-thru’ on the church grounds.
Abiding by public health guidelines, on Ash Wednesday parishioners will be able to collect the ashes in the special envelopes.
The ashes will be blessed as normal prior to the collections and they will be available in most churches across Cork.
One of those who will be offering the collection service is Enniskeane parish priest Fr Tom Hayes.
Fr Hayes said that, despite reducing numbers in attendance at mass, Ash Wednesday always remains an important holy day and this year is expected to be no different.
“A lot of people associate Mass attendance with declining numbers, and it is decreasing gradually over time, but actually the number of people who come to church on Ash Wednesday for the blessed ashes has not gone down that much.
“People still value that particular ritual as being a very special part of their year,” Fr Hayes said
This year, the envelopes will be available for parishioners to collect throughout the day and they will be able to take them home to their own household or to another household where they may be part of a care bubble.
In Doneraile, ashes will also be available for ‘collection’ within the church for those who may be passing or praying.
Parish priest Fr Aidan Crowley also noted the importance of marking Ash Wednesday, despite the current restrictions.
“Some of the old traditions are still very important and I suppose it just keeps the link there and keeps them in touch.
“The likes of Ash Wednesday, Easter, Christmas, November when we think of the dead, people are still very much into those traditions and those cultures and it does mean a lot to people.”
With the ashes readily available, Fr Crowley said that, while people may be missing the sense of community that comes with attending mass, a lot will still want to ensure they receive their blessing no matter the format.