The St. Boniface Diocese's Archbishop is excited to see members of his faith community in person.

Ash Wednesday will look different for parishioners, but the meaning of the day remains the same.

"This is huge because people were really hungering for worship, for gathering, to receive communion," Archbishop Albert LeGatt from Archidiocèse de Saint-Boniface Archdiocese says. "For all Catholics, it has been a real sense of loss."

The ability to have in-person worship comes just in time for a major Catholic celebration: Ash Wednesday.

One of the main components of a typical Ash Wednesday service is the ashes themselves, and the meaning of penance and turning away from sin behind them. The ceremony that involves making a cross on foreheads with ashes will continue but altered.

"What will be specific is that after the readings from scripture and the sermon, then people will come up and where normally we would take the ashes and make a sign of the cross on their forehead, actually this year because of the pandemic and all of that, it will simply be a small number of ashes dropped onto the top of their head.

The Archbishop is not anticipating sneezing to be an issue but reaffirms to participants that masks will be used during the service.

Dr. Brent Roussin is reminding church-goes to follow the restrictions and fundamentals when attending Ash Wednesday and to stay in household groups and "absolutely staying home when you are ill."

For those not present in the 10 per cent capacity limit, LeGatt says they can make an appointment during the week with only their household to receive a shortened version of the special service, or they can pick up ashes to do it themselves. 

"These are exceptional times," he says, noting this is not a normal practice. "There would be a short ritual with scripture, prayer, and the imposition of ashes."

He says this would be a 10-minute long event.

LeGatt is glad to see churches reopening at some community, saying for Catholics, the church community is very important, but agrees that just because the church's capacity is at 10 per cent, it does not mean faith cannot be 100 per cent.

"When we think of church, we think of gathering because of our shared faith... that faith is every day. It is not as if because the doors of the church are closed that God became absent, not at all. That presence is there in every moment."

Grateful to have some in-person worship, the Archbishop is looking forward to seeing more reopenings in the future.