A BRISBANE parish has found a new way to bring Church to the streets with an innovative Ash Wednesday encounter.
“We can hide and just be happy with what we do at church, or we can witness and go out and be what Jesus wants us to be,” parish priest at Our Lady of the Southern Cross Church in Springfield Fr Mauro Conte said.
Fr Conte’s plan was to lay ashes in the sign of the cross on commuters setting off for work at his local railway station, as a way of evangelising at the start of Lent.
He doesn’t claim the idea is original – he found it on a United States website called “Ashes to Go”.
The website is “about bringing spirit, belief and belonging out from behind church doors, and into the places where we go every day”.
“I spoke to our (parish) leadership team and they all supported the initiative,” Fr Conte said.
After seeking permission and being given the all-clear from rail authorities and police, Fr Conte and a team of 10 parishioners set off to lay ashes on commuters boarding the morning train at Springfield Central.
“There were people who ignored us, who politely said ‘no’ to us, but some stopped and said ‘Ah, yes, it’s Ash Wednesday’,” he said.
“A police car stopped, the policemen came down and they received ashes as well.
“Some people asked for prayers.”
Fr Conte and his parish team laid ashes on 40 commuters during an hour-long vigil.
Photos posted on social media were greeted with replies including “awesome!”, “fantastico”, and “All my office mates say this gesture is the best religious hack they have known”.
Fr Mauro said commuters were hungry for a moment of prayer, renewal and grace, and he encouraged other parishes across Australia to take up the Ashes to Go idea next year.