Under the guidance of the Vatican and Catholic Diocese of San Diego, Ash Wednesday will look a bit different this year in America’s Finest City due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Typically, parishioners are able to receive ashes on their forehead, usually placed by a priest’s thumb to mark a day of repentance.
Although we are nearing the first anniversary of pandemic-related lockdowns, Ash Wednesday is one of the last worldwide events to be affected by COVID-19 for the first time.
On this day last year, the U.S. had only reported around 50 COVID-19 cases.
This year the Catholic Diocese of San Diego released COVID-19 safety protocols for San Diego parishes, which includes priests using a Q-tip to administer the ashes for each parishioner.
Basilica San Diego de Alcala, one of San Diego's largest missions, held masses outdoors and ashes were received via Q-tip.
St. Joseph's Cathedral downtown used Q-tips, too, but held mass indoors as it has been doing since the Supreme Court allowed churches to resume indoor services at 25% capacity.
“There's been a drastic reduction to the number of people that actually come," said Deacon Dave Warren, with St. Joseph’s Catholic Cathedral.
At Clairemont Lutheran, adjustments were also made.
“This year with the COVID, it necessitated that we keep people in their cars so we’re driving through ashes to go,” said Pastor Jonathan Doolittle.
Pastor Doolittle used his bare hands to spread ashes on parishioners' heads.
“It is great that we’re able to take something out of the sanctuary and put it out where people can access it easily and truly give them the blessing and the connection to their God that they need to get through these difficult times,” said Pastor Doolittle.
The Vatican encouraged priests to offer the ashes with a contactless motion by sprinkling them on top of parishioners’ heads.
Some places of worship, however, announced they will forgo the ashes entirely.
“We don’t want to put anyone in danger,” said Father Patrick Mulcahy of the Mary Star of the Sea Parish in La Jolla. “Over a year of doing this, we’ve set up protocols that are really common sense and embraced by the people, and I feel the people that come feel very safe in what we’re doing and tomorrow will be no different.”