Daytime Ash Wednesday Masses move forward despite blizzard

Published: Feb. 22, 2023 at 8:04 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Mother Nature’s wrath forced the closure of most schools, businesses, government offices, and some churches on Ash Wednesday.

But at all the Catholic churches in Sioux Falls, the decision for one of the most cherished ceremonies on the Christian calendar was, for the most part, that The Mass must go on. This, despite winter weather advisories and blizzard warnings advising people to stay home.

Ash Wednesday – officially known as the Day of Ashes – marks the first day of Lent and is a holy day of prayer and repentance, when Christians confess their sins and profess their devotion to God. During a Mass, a priest places the ashes on a worshiper’s forehead in the shape of a cross.

“We have a number of parishioners that live around the area that live close to the Cathedral, some that can walk here,” said Father Tony Klein, a priest at the Cathedral of St. Joseph’s near downtown. “We knew that we (the clergy) live right here, so we’re going to have Mass, and if people are able to come, they’re welcome to.

“We did over this weekend say (to parishioners) to be prudent in making your decision. If you’re not able to come, that’s OK.”

Most Catholic churches offer three Ash Wednesday services. Each service scheduled for 6:45 a.m. and noon in Sioux Falls went on, as planned, according to Father James Morgan, also of the Cathedral of St. Joseph’s.

But every facility in Sioux Falls except St. Joseph’s canceled their 6:30 p.m. Masses.

By then, eight inches of snow had accumulated in Sioux Falls, with at least a few more inches predicted throughout the night to go along with 35 to 45 mph winds and the “feels like” temperature staying below zero degrees.

Conditions throughout the morning and midday were not much better, but that didn’t stop about 150 people from attending the Cathedral’s noon mass.

”I just needed to be here at the church, the Cathedral, knowing that this beautiful place was here, so it was not even a question in our minds to not attend,” said Juanita Bot of Minneota, Minnesota, which is almost two hours northeast of Sioux Falls.

She and her husband Bruce were supposed to fly out of Sioux Falls on Tuesday to spend Ash Wednesday in Florida with their daughter. But the flight to Tampa was canceled, as were all Sioux Falls Regional Airport departures on Wednesday. So, the Bots took the two-mile drive from their hotel near the airport to St. Joseph’s.

”It’s in town, and there’s not going to be a chance that the roads would be closed,” Juanita Bot said. “The roads weren’t perfectly clear at all, but there was just no (consideration) in our mind to not come here at all.”

Bruce Bot is actually Deacon Bot of the St. Edward Catholic Church in Minneota. Normally, he is conducting the Ash Wednesday ceremony.

”I can’t remember ever having missed an Ash Wednesday service,” Bruce Bot said. “I might have when I was younger, when I was sick or something like that, but, going to Mass was important to my parents, too, and that was always something that we took very important.”

He added that only a physical ailment would stop the Bots from attending Ash Wednesday, which they said is far more meaningful in person than watching on a livestream — which was not offered for the Cathedral of St. Joseph’s service, anyway.

”When you’re in person, you get to receive the actual body, blood, soul, and divinity of our lord,” Bot said. “I just need that in my life to sustain me.

Father Klein agreed that the physical experience is a major part of Ash Wednesday’s allure.

“It’s important to be at it,” Klein said. “We’re entering into the sacrifice on the cross, and you can’t get that in the same way from watching on the TV screen. You can’t receive the Eucharist from staying at home.”

But Father Klein reminded those that couldn’t make it that Ash Wednesday is not a day of obligation in the church.

“There’s power in it,” Klein said. “We want the Eucharist, we want the Mass. We want the sacraments. But fortunately, God is not just limited to these when these are taken away from us without our choosing.”

The Bots were two of the first four people to arrive at the noon mass, about an hour before it started, as they had “nothing but time.”

“I’m totally thankful, and I think it’s a blessing to be here,” Juanita Bot said. “I just think that in our world today, people are searching for truth. People are searching for true meaning in their lives. Our culture has gone totally anti-Christ.

“I really feel like people are looking for new direction and Ash Wednesday is going to be a good time for people to reflect on the approaching Easter season.”