Lenten initiatives flourish in Rochester Diocese amid pandemic - Catholic Courier
Father Raymond Fleming distributes ashes through a car window outside of Rochester's St. Monica Church Feb. 17. Father Raymond Fleming distributes ashes through a car window outside of Rochester's St. Monica Church Feb. 17. (Courier photo by Jeff Witherow)

Lenten initiatives flourish in Rochester Diocese amid pandemic

Right from the first day of Lent, the coronavirus pandemic has had a noticeable impact on the 2021 season. 

Ash Wednesday services in the Diocese of Rochester were highlighted by the faithful receiving ashes sprinkled on top of their heads — rather than the customary practice of marking ashes on foreheads — based on Vatican guidance aimed at avoiding physical contact. Some parishes offered drive-up ash distribution to avoid having worshipers come indoors and, at St. Marianne Cope Parish in Henrietta, take-home packets of ashes were made available — for this year only — for folks who were not able or comfortable enough to attend indoor services. 

These events exemplify Lenten efforts in the diocese designed to keep everybody safe from COVID-19 while including as many participants as possible. Another way to achieve this ideal has been to arrange activities for both live and virtual attendance. Among the examples, according to parish bulletins, are missions, retreats and other presentations at St. Mary of the Lake Church, Ontario (March 7-9); St. Mary, Elmira (March 7-9); St. Patrick, Victor (March 14-16); St. Rita, Webster (March 2, 9, 16 and 23); and on several Lenten dates in Good Shepherd Catholic Community and the northern Tompkins cluster

In addition, in-person events include a Lenten series on Saturdays at St. Catherine of Siena Parish, Mendon; “Lenten Desert Day” retreats at Notre Dame Retreat House in Canandaigua; a retreat Feb. 22 and March 1 at Fairport’s Church of the Resurrection and Church of the Assumption; a retreat March 2 and 9 at Church of the Transfiguration, Pittsford; Scripture study on Lenten Sundays at St. John the Evangelist, Spencerport; a retreat on Lenten Wednesdays at Parish of the Holy Family, Gates; a mission Feb. 28 and March 1-2 at St. Katharine Drexel Parish, Macedon/Palmyra; and a book discussion on Wednesdays at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Brockport. 

A mixture of in-person and virtual opportunities for Stations of the Cross, rosary recitation, and exposition/adoration is available at numerous diocesan parishes. Meanwhile, all-online discussion and prayer gatherings are scheduled at Most Holy Name of Jesus Parish, Elmira; St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Hamlin; Our Mother of Sorrows, Greece/Holy Cross, Charlotte; Peace of Christ, Rochester; St. John of Rochester, Fairport; St. Benedict, Canandaigua/Bloomfield; St. Paul, Webster; St. Kateri Tekakwitha, Irondequoit; Holy Spirit/St. Joseph, Penfield; and St. Martin de Porres, Caledonia/Scottsville/Churchville. 

Online Lenten activities for young Catholics are taking place at St. Kateri Tekakwitha, Irondequoit; St. Mark, Greece; and Our Lady of the Lakes, Finger Lakes. One popular youth initiative, Living Stations of the Cross — during which presenters, typically youths, act out Jesus’ passion — are largely not occurring due to social-distancing difficulties. An exception is St. Christopher Parish in North Chili, which plans to have an in-person Living Stations on Good Friday, April 2. Rather than act out Jesus’ passion, youths will instead take turns reading the stations while adhering to social distancing. 

Another Lenten focus with a reduced schedule this year involves meals. Such popular get-togethers as luncheons, soup suppers and St. Joseph’s Tables are being suspended due to the pandemic. However, Lenten fish fries remain available — strictly on a takeout basis — at St. Mark, Greece; St. John the Evangelist, Greece; St. Marianne Cope, Henrietta; St. Rita, Webster; and Christ the King, Irondequoit. And at Our Mother of Sorrows/Holy Cross, take-home bags of bread and oranges will be offered after weekend Masses in lieu of St. Joseph’s Tables. 

Not all Lenten activity has been altered by the pandemic. Continuing its annual effort in diocesan parishes is CRS Rice Bowl, a Lenten program that collects donations for Catholic Relief Services help fight poverty and hunger at home and abroad. In addition, the annual 40 Days for Life spring campaign in Ithaca and Rochester, which began on Ash Wednesday, is running through Palm Sunday, March 28. Constant, peaceful prayer is taking place daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. across the street from Planned Parenthood at 620 W. Seneca St., Ithaca, and near Planned Parenthood at 114 University Ave., Rochester. All are welcome to join in.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Check your parish bulletin and website for specific details on Lenten events.

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