SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) — Traditionally an in-person, hands-on celebration for Christians in the Bay Area and beyond, Ash Wednesday was not immune to changes brought on by the pandemic.

“Rather that imposing the ashes on each individual, we were allowed and requested by the dioceses to just drop the ashes on the head,” says Father Antonio Silveira, Pastor of Five Wounds Church in San Jose.

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Since the early days of the pandemic, Five Wounds Church has broadcast its daily mass live on social media, reaching an audience of thousands.

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Recently, the diocese of San Jose has given churches permission to resume in-person services amid an ongoing court battle over the Santa Clara County Public Health Department’s ability to impose restrictions on places of worship.

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Churchgoers say they feel blessed to be welcomed back into the church even at 25 percent capacity.

“We’re still going to have our faith in our hearts and continue praying. It might just be at home — any space where we feel peace and feel that love,” said parishioner Gissel Licon.

In a tweak to tradition, Father Silveira sprinkled ashes on the crown of parishioner’s head during morning mass, allowing them to form their own crosses from the ashes on their foreheads. The change was meant to be safer and more sanitary during the pandemic.

It’s been nearly a year since the initial stay-at-home, public health order banned indoor gatherings. Parishioners say they’re glad to have an opportunity to reconnect with their community of faith in person.

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“It’s very important to me because I get to see people who I haven’t seen for a long time. It’s like a family reunion. I only see and hear them on Facebook. And when I see them coming here, attending mass, receiving ashes on their head, it’s such a blessing,” said Champion Ravada Avecilla.