Cardinal Tobin to Celebrate Ash Wednesday Masses

Cardinal Tobin sprinkles ashes onto a parishioner’s head during the Ash Wednesday Mass at St. Patrick’s Pro-Cathedral in Newark in 2021.

Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R., Archbishop of Newark, will celebrate Ash Wednesday with two Masses — one in English and one in Spanish — on Wednesday, March 2, at St. Patrick’s Pro-Cathedral in Newark.

Cardinal Tobin will preside over the first service in English at 12 p.m. followed by a second Mass in Spanish at 7:30 p.m. All are welcome to attend, though visitors to the Pro-Cathedral are strongly encouraged to wear masks due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Ash Wednesday is one of the most significant holy days of the liturgical calendar because it marks the beginning of Lent, the six week-period of prayer, repentance, and sacrifice leading up to Easter. During an Ash Wednesday Mass, priests traditionally place ashes — which are the charred remains of palm fronds from the prior year’s Palm Sunday — onto a parishioner’s forehead in the sign of the cross to symbolize that God made everyone out of dust, and all shall return to dust at the end of their lives. Catholics then wear the ashes for the rest of the day as a sign of penance for their sins.

Due to the pandemic and out of an abundance of caution, ashes will not be distributed to parishioners in the usual manner this year. Instead, they will either be sprinkled on top of the head or applied to the forehead using a cotton swab.    

In addition to Mass, Catholics observe Ash Wednesday by fasting, repenting, and abstaining from meat. Then, over the next several weeks, the faithful will commemorate Christ’s 40 days of temptation by praying, repenting, abstaining from meat on Fridays, fasting on Good Friday, and making a Lenten sacrifice for the entirety of Lent. This period ends on Holy Thursday, which falls on April 14 this year.   

To learn more about Lent and view Holy Week schedules, visit the Archdiocese of Newark’s  Office of Divine Worship webpage.