Lent begins this week with Ash Wednesday

Catholics in the Diocese of Des Moines join Christians around the world in kicking off the Lenten season this week with Ash Wednesday. This is a significant day in the Catholic Church year beginning a period of forty days of prayer, fasting and charity which prepares the faithful and newcomers to the faith to celebrate Easter with renewed hearts.

At Ash Wednesday services, people traditionally are marked with ashes of burnt palm branches as a sign of their recognition of their human frailty as well as sinfulness and need for repentance in their lifelong journey of conversion.
Ash Wednesday and Good Friday (March 30) are days of fasting within the Church for those between the ages of 18 and 59. They may eat only one full meal and two other meals consisting of substantially less food. There should be no food taken between meals. Anyone whose health is threatened by fasting is exempted. Catholics age 14 and older also abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday and all Fridays of Lent.
Signing with ashes will be held throughout the diocese on Ash Wednesday. Anyone may call their local Catholic church for times. Ashes will be distributed at St. Ambrose Cathedral, at 6th and High Streets in Des Moines, on Wednesday during the 12:10 p.m.Mass. Bishop Richard Pates will be the celebrant of the Mass. Attendance at services and being signed with ashes is open to anyone who desires it, regardless of whether they are a member of the Catholic Church.

The diocese is promoting a number of initiatives during the Lenten season.

  • The diocese’s schools and religious education programs are supporting efforts to raise funds for a Catholic high school seminary in Nigeria. The project, called “Building the Kingdom” honors the Nigerian priests of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit, who serve in the Des Moines diocese. They are: Father Felix Onuora, Father Anthony Adibe and Father Remi Okere. Last year, the diocese sent $20,000 that was used to renovate the rector’s quarters, construct a new building with 20 rooms for students and renovated two blocks of classrooms.
  • Parishes and schools are encouraged to support the CRS Rice Bowl effort, formerly called Operation Rice Bowl, during the Lenten season. The Rice Bowl helps us live in solidarity with the poor and vulnerable around the world. Twenty-five percent of the donations raised through the Rice Bowl effort stay in the Diocese of Des Moines to assist with local people in need. The other 75 percent supports people who live in poverty through Catholic Relief Services programs in more than 100 countries around the world.
  • Parishes are encouraged to hold a special collection to support the work of Catholic Charities to lend a hand to those in need in our communities. Catholic Charities has programs that service victims of domestic violence, the hungry, the homeless, those who need counseling and newcomers to the community including refugees and Hispanic people.Go to http://www.catholiccharitiesdm.org for program and contact information or call Beth Gibbins at 515-237-5078.

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