Donegal priest provides ‘takeaway ashes’ for parishioners on Ash Wednesday

A Donegal priest has come up with a unique idea to allow his parishioners to celebrate Ash Wednesday amid Ireland’s lockdown.

Ash Wednesday is normally celebrated on the day after Shrove Tuesday, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many customs have been put on hold. However, one Donegal priest has taken the initiative to provide ‘takeaway ashes’ for parishioners this year.

Traditionally, Ash Wednesday is celebrated by Catholics on the first day of Lent, a 40 day period leading up to Easter Sunday during which Catholics give up luxuries to honour the 40 days and 40 nights Jesus spent in the desert, fasting and praying.

To mark the beginning of Lent, many Catholics receive ashes in the shape of a cross on their forehead as a reminder of their mortality, with the words “we are dust, and to dust, we shall return”.

Due to social distancing and stay at home restrictions in place across Ireland, the usual tradition of receiving ashes has had to be cancelled. However, one Donegal priest has found a way to help his parishioners celebrate this year.

Adapting to the circumstances – working within restrictions

Donegal priest provides takeaway ashes for parishioners.

Donegal priest Fr Brian Brady of Clonmany in County Donegal has provided ‘takeaway ashes’ for parishioners on Ash Wednesday this year to allow them to honour the tradition despite restrictions.

Normally, priests would visit local schools on Ash Wednesday to allow students to receive their ashes without having to miss their education.

This year, however, with schools closed and church services moved online, these normal customs had to be cancelled.

Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland show yesterday morning, Fr Brady revealed his church had provided over 200 packets of ‘takeaway ashes’ to parishioners. They were calling for more due to the high demand.

The ashes were provided to allow practising Catholics to hold a prayer service in the safety of their own home before drawing a cross on their foreheads with the ashes.

Fr Brian Brady said, “It seems to have caught on with the parishioners because we have left out the little containers, and they all seem to be gone.”

Where to get ashes this Ash Wednesday – available at a number of Donegal churches

Donegal churches provide takeaway ashes for parishioners.
Credit: / GiniGeo_Photography

The takeaway ashes for parishioners have been places in several churches around Donegal for worshippers to collect along with a prayer that can be said by the family to mark the beginning of Lent.

Available on a first-come-first-served basis, the blessed ashes are free to collect from Donegal churches including St Mary’s Church in Clonmany, St Michael’s Church in Urris, and The Oratory of the Assumption in Ballyliffin.

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