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Sign of the times: Ash Wednesday services adjust for pandemic

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Sign of the times: Ash Wednesday services adjust for pandemic

Despite the cold and slick roads, Columbians still gathered in places of worship for Ash Wednesday. In order to observe COVID-19 precautions, some churches, including Our Lady of Lourdes, sprinkled ashes over the congregants' heads instead of marking a cross on their foreheads.

Wednesday marks the first Ash Wednesday since the COVID-19 pandemic came in full force to Columbia. Gov. Mike Parson declared a state of emergency for Missouri on March 13, two weeks after the religious holiday.

In Christianity, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Lenten season, or the 40 days leading up to Easter. They represent the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert before his crucifixion. On Ash Wednesday, ashes are placed on the head as a symbol for death and repentance.

Fr. Aubuchon stands before the congregation

Father Christopher Aubuchon stands before the congregation at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church on Wednesday in Columbia. Despite the cold and slick roads, Columbians still gathered in places of worship for Ash Wednesday. In order to observe COVID-19 precautions, some churches, including Our Lady of Lourdes, sprinkled ashes over the congregants' heads instead of marking a cross on their foreheads.

Julie Widhalm receives ashes

Julie Widhalm, left, receives ashes from Sacred Heart's Frather Francis Doyle on Wednesday in Columbia. Fr. Doyle informed attendees at mass that this year ashes would be sprinkled over their heads to avoid the spread of COVID-19.

Shelby King and Wyatt Thompson enter Our Lady of Lourdes

Shelby King, left, and Wyatt Thompson enter Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church on Wednesday in Columbia. Wednesday marked the beginning of Lent, an imitation of Jesus Christ's fasting in the desert for 40 days.

Sacred Heart Catholic Church hosted a bilingual celebration

LEFT: Sacred Heart Catholic Church hosted a bilingual celebration of Ash Wednesday in Columbia. On weekends, Sacred Heart holds mass three times in English and once in Spanish, and all special masses are delivered bilingually.

RIGHT: Snow blankets Sacred Heart Catholic Church on Ash Wednesday in Columbia. The 5:30 p.m. mass approached the church's current maximum capacity of 110 as churchgoers gathered to receive ashes.

Kevin Cornell holds his son Wulfric

Kevin Cornell, right, holds his son Wulfric while he receives his ashes Wednesday at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Columbia. Instead of making a cross on the forehead, ashes were sprinkled on top of the heads of those in attendance to adhere to COVID-19 guidelines.

Deacon Bill Caubet and Fr. Francis Doyle prepare

Deacon Bill Caubet, left, and Father Francis Doyle prepare to bless churchgoers with ashes Wednesday at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Columbia. Doyle led the mass in both English and Spanish, as he does for all major celebrations.

Attendees gather at Sacred Heart Catholic Church

Attendees gather at Sacred Heart Catholic Church for an Ash Wednesday celebration of mass Wednesday in Columbia. Sacred Heart accommodated at least 70 churchgoers, sprinkling ashes on their heads instead of marking the forehead with them.

Dylan Davis receives ashes sprinkled on his head

Dylan Davis receives ashes sprinkled on his head for Ash Wednesday on Wednesday at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Columbia. The ashes came from palm leaves burned on last year's Palm Sunday.

  • Photo editor, spring 2021 Studying convergence journalism Reach me at jpazx7@umsystem.edu, or in the newsroom at 882-5700.

  • Assistant Director of Photography at the Columbia Missourian. Previously photo editor, staff photographer, reporter. Reach me at madiwinfield@mail.missouri.edu or at @madiwinfield on Instagram and Twitter.

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