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Oklahoma churches offer Ash Wednesday religious ritual to go

The imposition of ashes that is part of the traditional Ash Wednesday observance is going mobile, with several Oklahoma clergy making plans to move it outside the four walls of the church.
by Carla Hinton Published: February 13, 2013

Stephenson said about 30 people stopped at the Chi-O Clock on Ash Wednesday in 2012. He said before they left with the familiar cross made with ashes on their forehead, he shared several prayers and a brief portion of the traditional Ash Wednesday liturgy with them.

“It's conspicuous — you stand out a bit, but it's an important statement,” Stephenson said. “The church is not a building that you go to — it's everywhere.”

The Rev. Roberto Quant, pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Oklahoma City, said he will go to several restaurants Wednesday to offer the imposition of ashes to employees whose work schedule will prevent them from attending an Ash Wednesday Mass. Quant said he has been making the rounds to local establishments for several years as a way to serve his parishioners who dislike missing out on the traditional religious observance.

Sacred ritual offered to sick

There is a segment of the community who cannot attend a traditional Ash Wednesday church service because they have been hospitalized.

Some hospitals, aware of this traditional observance, allow chaplains and other clergy to offer the imposition of ashes at a patient's request.

Paul Lewis, a deacon at Our Lady's Cathedral and director of pastoral services at Mercy Oklahoma City, said he expects several patients to ask for a bedside observance of the ritual.

Lewis said the hospital also planned to hold an Ash Wednesday service in its chapel near the gift shop.

Lewis said he knows the Ash Wednesday ritual is important for many faithful Christians because it is a way to mark the beginning of the Lenten season.

At St. Augustine of Canterbury, Alsay said he planned to brave cold weather Wednesday to offer the outreach.

He said at least one of his church members said the Ashes to Go initiative was a challenging concept to accept. However, Alsay said the congregant followed that by saying that if even one person benefited from it, it would be considered a success.

“We have to be careful about being enculturated. We don't ever want to water down our message, but we may want to take the wine of the Gospel and pour it into new wineskins,” he said.

“We will see what the response is.”

by Carla Hinton
Religion Editor
Carla Hinton, an Oklahoma City native, joined The Oklahoman in 1986 as a National Society of Newspaper Editors minority intern. She began reporting full-time for The Oklahoman two years later and has served as a beat writer covering a wide...
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