Where to Get Ashes: Table of Contents
- Different Ash Wednesday Liturgies
- Finding the Right Service
- Ashes at Catholic Churches and Local Parishes
- Ashes to Go/Drive-by Ashes
- Ash Wednesday at Airports
- Ash Wednesday on College Campuses
- More Ash Wednesday Resources
Even some non-Christians know the words (“Remember that you are dust, and unto dust you shall return”) and recognize the symbol (the dark forehead smudge of black) that mark this first day of Lent.
This solemn day “speaks to the existential experience of the human person. All of us are plagued by our choices and our sins,” according to Father Michael Kapperman, parochial vicar at Sacred Heart Parish.
To make it easier to participate in Ash Wednesday in 2024, Hallow has assembled this guide exploring where to get ashes whether at home, at college, commuting to work or traveling.
Ash Wednesday Liturgies
The Book of Blessings, which contains “blessings of the Roman ritual for the Universal Church as well as additional proper blessings for use in the United States,” outlines general guidelines for Ash Wednesday liturgies.
It tells us that the “…distribution of ashes on Ash Wednesday typically takes place during the celebration of Mass. However, when circumstances require, the blessing and distribution of ashes may take place apart from Mass, during a celebration of the word of God.”
In other words, you usually receive ashes at Mass, but there are other ways that parishes can distribute ashes.
“Getting ashes” can mean attending Mass, but that’s not always the case.
Finding the Right Ash Wednesday Service
At full Ash Wednesday liturgies, Mass takes place mostly as normal, save for the omission of the Penitential Act. The distribution of ashes normally occurs after the homily.
However, since the Book of Blessings allows for ashes to be given outside of a full Mass, there are guidelines for services that deacons or lay people lead.
These services focus on the Liturgy of the Word and help make getting ashes more accessible since a priest is not required.
As you look for where to get ashes, be aware of these differences and look for the right service for you. Not every service will be a full Mass.
Catholic Churches Near You – Ashes at Your Local Parish
The first place to look for a place to receive ashes on Ash Wednesday is your nearest Catholic Church.
If you’re not familiar with the local Catholic churches, you can always visit the USCCB website, which features a directory of dioceses around the country. From there, use the map “Parish Finder” feature to locate your nearest Catholic Church and browse its website.
Since Ash Wednesday falls outside the regular weekend liturgy schedule, information on ash distribution may not appear prominently on the site. If you’re having trouble, look for a section of the website that may be called “Resources” or “Bulletin.”
Most churches include PDF versions of the paper bulletins they hand out on Sundays. This will also certainly contain the schedule for Ash Wednesday.
Other Christian churches, like those of the Lutherans and Methodist faith traditions, also distribute ashes. ChurchFinder may help you locate those options.
Not all distribution of ashes takes place inside of churches. In fact, in some places, local churches bring ashes to busy commuter spots to give ashes to people traveling to or from work.
Where to Get Ashes as a Commuter: “Ashes to Go” and Drive-by Ashes
Although daily Mass is beautiful and absolutely worth your time, many of us don’t attend Mass regularly on Wednesdays. Ash Wednesday is not a Holy Day of Obligation, and it can be a challenge to figure out where and when to get ashes.
In many cities, local churches will meet people where they are at–literally–in bringing ashes to busy hubs of public transportation.
Ash Wednesday is a time to slow down and reflect. When you receive ashes at a train station or other public, you will not experience a full Mass. You also likely won’t participate in the Liturgy of the Word. But you’ll be able to receive ashes as you head to the office.
Here are some options for receiving ashes in cities around the country:
- New York City – Grand Central Station, Newark Penn Station
- Chicago – Union Station (Great Hall)
- Washington, D.C. – Capitol Visitors’ Center (if you happen to be a member of Congress!)
- Connecticut – Metro North Wilton Station
- Boston – Boston Common
Sometimes your “commute” might not involve a train, bus or car. Luckily, there are options to get ashes even if you’re flying on Ash Wednesday.
Ash Wednesday While Traveling: Ashes at the Airport
Traveling can be stressful and exhausting, especially when you’ve got things to do before you depart or when you land.
At many airports around the country, local priests will distribute ashes at airport chapels and interfaith prayer rooms to allow Catholics and other Christians to receive their ashes while on the go.
Current information regarding airport chapel plans and schedules is hard to come by. However, we’ve compiled a list of airports that have distributed ashes in the past and will likely offer them this year as well. If possible, it’s always best to confirm with your local airport before you travel:
- Atlanta Hartsfield – ATL
- Charlotte – CLT – (Chapel, third floor, Main Terminal)
- Chicago O’Hare – ORD
- Chicago Midway – MDW
- Dallas – DFW (Meadows Chapel, Anglican priest)
- Denver – DEN (Interfaith chapel)
- Houston Bush – IAH (Interfaith Chapel, Terminal C)
- Minneapolis – MSP
- New York LaGuardia – LGA
- Orlando – MCO (Main Terminal in corridor near ArtPort)
- Pittsburgh – PIT (Interfaith chapel, mezzanine level, airside)
Ashes on College Campuses
Nearly all Catholic (and many Christian) colleges and universities will offer some form of Ash Wednesday service.
If you’re a college student, consult your school’s campus ministry website or social media account for a schedule of activities planned around Ash Wednesday.
If you live near a Catholic college, it’s also worth exploring. Sometimes, Ash Wednesday services (and other liturgies) are open to local community members.