Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It’s hard to believe that just a few short weeks after Christmas, I should be thinking of the season of Lent, but in the life of a priest, there is little separation between the end of one liturgical season and the beginning of another. Whether we like it or not, Lent is quickly approaching. And in this topsy-turvy year of pandemic that
we’ve endured together, it might be helpful to explain and clarify how different things will look this year.

The Diocese of Trenton has provided guidelines and directives for the safe and solemn celebration of both Lenten and Easter activities and Masses. It may not be easy to make some of these adjustments that are required of us this year, but ultimately we are obligated to do what we can to keep everyone healthy as possible. It’s going to be strange, but what hasn’t been strange in this year?

Be aware that Ash Wednesday is on February 17th this year. It is NOT a holy day of obligation!!! In order to accommodate those that do want to come out and begin the season of Lent with an Ash Wednesday celebration, we will maintain the usual schedule of services and Masses. However, due to the pandemic, social distancing will be enforced for all such events. Perhaps the most prominent change is the actual distribution of ashes.

Person to person contact is to be limited as much as possible, meaning that usual delivery method of a thumb to a forehead needs to be modified. Instead, a new Q-tip for each person will be dipped in the ashes and then make a cross on the individual’s brow. The distribution of ashes will also occur at the very end of both the services and Masses as opposed to somewhere in the middle. It might seem a bit clunky, but I’m sure we’ll manage it
just fine.

Other liturgical events and prayer activities will also be modified. The biggest one most likely being The Stations of the Cross. While it’s usually Soup and Stations here at St. Charles, there will be no indoor dining this year. In fact, there may not even be a physical gathering for Stations. There is strong encouragement to
livestream or record the Stations so that people need not attend in person. The guidelines also prohibit the passing out of booklets, making it that much harder to do Stations with a group. We have not reached a final decision on how it will look or operate yet, but wanted to give interested parties some advance warning of how
different it most likely will be.

In some ways, this Lent may be quite tough, having to adapt or even forego some beloved traditions of the season and of our parish. I hope that we might navigate these things together and with the kind of love and charity needed in these days. As more details get worked out, I will keep you informed.

Peace and Goodness,
Fr. Dan