On Wednesday afternoon, I got the chance to speak to Fernando Ceniceros, Director of Communication
of the Catholic Diocese of El Paso. Next week is Ash Wednesday which is the start of the Lenten season. For Catholics, it is also the day that we go to Mass and get ashes formed into a cross on our foreheads. But not this year.

Because of the ongoing threat of the spread of the coronavirus, the Diocese and the parishes in the Diocese will be doing things a little differently. At this time, Catholic churches can hold Mass on Sunday as long as they follow COVID-19 safety protocols like face masks inside during Mass, social distancing, sanitizing the facility, and 25% capacity.

Patricia Martinez
Patricia Martinez

Ceniceros said that parishes will have to maintain 25% capacity for ash distribution this year. Churches can hold a service or Mass or they might hold more than one service. At St. Luke's, they will be holding multiple services and it you don't manage to make it inside, you can still get ashes because they will be doing overflow outside.

Catholics usually get an acclamation and the sign of the Cross on their forehead, but this year, the priest will instead say this acclamation to everyone, "From ashes your were born, to ashes you will return." You will then get in a socially distanced line and have what Ceniceros called a Sprinkling Rite of ashes over your head for a contactless ash distribution.

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If you are wondering if you can go to your individual parish for ashes, Ceniceros says the best thing to do is call and find out if they will be doing Mass, a service, or if they will be doing ash distribution at all.

If you aren't comfortable with going to get ashes, you don't have to worry. You can watch a live service on the Diocesean Facebook page led by Bishop Mark Seitz. As with every event during the pandemic, these details might change on a dime and we will let you know if anything changes.

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