Local Catholics ready for Ash Wednesday, parishes to remain open following coronavirus protocols

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EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — Wednesday kicks off Lent, the holy season before Easter. For many local Catholics, it’s a time for change while practicing their faith.

However, this year, because of COVID-19, things will be a little different.

KTSM 9 News spoke with a few churchgoers at Saint Patrick Cathedral Tuesday afternoon who shared how important Ash Wednesday is to them, and why they’re not going to let any setbacks from COVID-19 keep them from practicing the holy tradition this year.

“It’s the beginning of Lent. It’s very important for every Catholic,” Eugenio Mesta said.

Mesta is one of many local Catholics who is planning to receive ashes this year despite limitations brought on by COVID-19.

“Tomorrow and Easter are the two days that have the most people attending mass and it shouldn’t be any different,” Mesta said. “Of course, I wish it was every day but it is what it is.”

The Catholic Diocese of El Paso said Ash Wednesday will be conducted quite differently this year to avoid any chance of contagion by using an ancient practice used in Rome and other parts of the world.

“The priest or deacon, after blessing the ashes will be placing just a few ashes over the head of the person without touching them,” shared Bishop Mark Seitz, of the Catholic Diocese of El Paso.

Parishes will still be operating at only 25-percent capacity and have their own schedules of when churchgoers can get their ashes.

“I think it’s pretty safe. I wish there would be more people than what’s allowed right now by the bishop of 25 percent,” Mesta shared. “I definitely feel safe and it’s a time to repent and change. You got to start with Ash Wednesday.”

While the beginning of Lent will soon be underway, one returning Catholic said she’s looking forward to being a part of Ash Wednesday this year despite some of those changes.

“This is my place. I have never found so much happiness than being here. I think it was God who brought me because I was always asking him for a way to know what I’m supposed to be doing here on this earth,” Gabriela Cotton shared.

Seitz shared that no matter what, Lent is still Lent. The bishop reminds local Catholics to continue their practices. “I’d still encourage the same kind of actions: prayer, penance, homage giving, giving to charity and for the poor during this time. They’re classics and they will always remain.”

Make sure to check with your local parish to see what time services or distribution of ashes will be available.

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