Digital Exclusive: Siouxland Catholics receive ashes in a new way for Ash Wednesday

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SIOUX CITY, Iowa (KCAU) – For local Catholics in the Siouxland area, this Wednesday is not just another ordinary day; it’s Ash Wednesday.

People were able to celebrate the first day of the Lent season in a safe way at Catholic churches and cathedrals.

“This year is a little bit different because of all of the effects of the pandemic that we have been used thus far. Mass, obviously, since we started to have public mass in June [2020], we’ve been social distancing, we’ve been wearing our masks,” said Fr. Andrew Galles, Diocese of Sioux City.

Father Andrew Galles, director of worship for the Diocese of Sioux City, said the way people will receive the ashes has changed for this year.

“Rome has instructed that we sprinkle ashes on their heads instead of touching them with our thumbs because of, again, the effects of the pandemic, and so that’s how they will receive their ashes; it will be touchless.” Fr. Galles.

Normally, Catholic leaders make the sign of the cross with their thumbs on people’s foreheads with the ashes.

Father David Esquiliano, director of the Cathedral of the Epiphany, said the sprinkling of the ashes is commonly used at Catholic churches in Europe.

“And explain to [people] that it’s not a modern invention. It’s just going to an ancient tradition that seems to fit well with the precautions that we need to take now,” said Fr. David Esquiliano, Catherdal of the Epiphany.

People have to remove their hats and bend their heads over slightly when approaching the presider to receive their ashes.

Father Esquiliano mentions that this way of giving ashes is not a new tradition for him and has helped other priests and pastors with the transition.

“A part of that has been showing them how easy it is. Anything that is new can be difficult for people but showing them that it’s not any harder than it used to be before,” said Fr. Esquiliano.

Even though some might not find comfort in change, the new way of the imposition of ashes has been a smooth process.

“A few people have said afterward that this actually worked out very well, and even though we’re not used to this custom. It’s been something that has opened their eyes to what the rest of the world does in terms of Ash Wednesday,” said Fr. Andrew Galles, Diocese of Sioux City.

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