A pandemic-aware Ash Wednesday service

by Ava Malae (‘24) | March 1, 2020

Ash Wednesday 2021. Photo from sfhslancers on Instagram.

On February 17, Saint Francis celebrated Ash Wednesday with an in-person liturgy on campus in the quad. “Due to COVID-19 restrictions, we cannot gather indoors for worship in Santa Clara County so we wanted to adapt and meet in our quad around the Holy Family Statue,” said Mr. Andrew Brown, who organized the liturgy. 

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent, the Christian liturgical season that leads up to Easter. During Ash Wednesday services, ashes are placed on the forehead in the shape of a cross. Brown explained, “As Fr. Mike Schmitz says, ‘The ashes remind us of our sinfulness. The cross reminds us we have a Savior.’” With COVID-19 restrictions, however, the ritual could not occur in its usual way. “This year, due to the county restrictions on indoor worship and the COVID-19 health crisis, the Church returned to an ancient tradition of ‘sprinkling’ ashes atop the head,” Brown said.

COVID-19 restrictions brought about other challenges while planning this liturgy. Ella McConnell (’22) is part of the Saint Francis choir, but was unable to perform live at the service due to these restrictions. “My choir class, a few weeks before the service, pre-recorded the song that was played at the liturgy because we were not allowed to perform during the service,” McConnell said. Brown said that some of the other obstacles included accommodating the weather and creating enough space to host all of the students. “We had to be sure we could fit all of our participants safely and comfortably but also without diminishing the sacredness of the day,” Brown said. “We were so blessed with beautiful weather that morning! God rewarded us for our faithfulness.”

Despite these challenges, Saint Francis’ campus ministry adapted quickly and hosted a successful Ash Wednesday liturgy. “I think Saint Francis has done a great job at making liturgies COVID friendly and within the county health guidelines,” said McConnell.

After the liturgy, freshmen received a tour of campus, led by their advisor and Saint Francis Family Club mentors, and sophomores, juniors, and seniors arrived for their liturgy after both freshman cohorts. “This year, we wanted to welcome and bring ease to all of our students but especially our freshman class,” said Brown. “They had the opportunity to build community and gather in their advisory classes to see their classroom locations in advance.”

The pandemic brought about changes to this year’s Ash Wednesday liturgy, but students were still able to enjoy and celebrate this special day. “Ash Wednesday was definitely different, but I enjoyed it,” said McConnell. “It is nice to be able to still hold services which gives me hope throughout this pandemic.” 

Categories: News, Uncategorized

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