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Hundreds Receive St. Matthias’ ‘Drive-Thru Ashes’ On Ash Wednesday

By PJ Parker.

From left, Dee Nann, St. Matthias pastoral associate in faith formation and education; Anna Kelly, pastoral associate in marketing and communications Fr. Doug Haefner; Florence Tedesco, parish administrator, and Sister Marie Therese at the conclusion of the “Drive-Thru Ashes” program. All photos: PJ Parker.

Feb. 14 marked not only the traditional Valentine’s Day this year, but also Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Christian holy season of Lent.

This Ash Wed, St. Matthias Roman Catholic Church on John F. Kennedy Boulevard, under the direction of Fr. Doug Haefner, joined many Catholic parishes in offering “drive thru ashes,” whereby parishioners could receive the sign of the cross in palm ashes right from the comfort and convenience of their cars.

More than 520 vehicles, some of which had been on a line extending more than a mile long, circled around the church perimeter where several of the church’s administrative staff were stationed.

Cars stopped and ashes were placed.

Florence Tedesco, parish administrator, was at the first station where ashes could be received.

“Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return,” she said as she placed ash on the foreheads of two car passengers.

Anna Kelly, pastoral associate in marketing and communications, said “repent and believe in the Gospel,” as she placed ashes on proffered foreheads.

When asked how this new concept came about, Fr. Haefner said, “Episcopalians and Lutherans have been going to train stations for their ashes, whereas Catholics traditionally associate ashes within the liturgical concept at a prayer service or Mass. It just seemed like a great idea.”

“Pope Francis said, we need to go out and meet people, and God agreed,” he said.

Several cars stopped with drivers saying, “great idea, Father,” and thank-yous.

Fr. Doug Haefner administers “drive-thru ashes” on Feb. 14.

Fr. Haefner noted that several elderly or disabled parishioners were very happy to be able to receive ashes in this manner.

New faces as well as familiar ones stopped as well.

“People are just driving in because they saw the signs on JFK Boulevard,” said Fr. Haefner. One such driver had parked his oversized FedEx truck across the street from the church, walked across the street and asked Fr. Haefner for ashes.

“He just saw the signs. A Fed Ex guy,” he said.

All were eager to receive their ashes and be on their way.

By 5 p.m., the tally had risen to 521 vehicles with 561 passengers.

“Ash Wednesday is a symbol of our mortality, a wake-up call to realize our time is limited, to take our pulse and see where we are, to get things in order,” said Fr. Haefner. “Whatever we have faced, whether cancer or heart disease or divorce, as bad as it was, you made it.”

More than 500 people drove their cars to St. Matthias for the “drive-thru ashes.”

“We will definitely be doing this again next year, maybe with a few new twists,” he said. “We were all very pleased.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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