PORTLAND — To mark the beginning of the Lenten season, Bishop Robert Deeley will celebrate Ash Wednesday Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland on Feb. 17 at 12:15 p.m. The Mass will also be available via livestream at www.portlanddiocese.org/online-Mass.

Listings of Ash Wednesday Masses scheduled for Catholic churches in Maine are available on the Diocese of Portland’s website. To search by city or town, visit www.portlanddiocese.org/ashwednesday. To search by parish, visit www.portlanddiocese.org/ash-wednesday-masses-parishes. Listings of ash distribution outside of Masses are also included.

Due to the pandemic, the method of imposition will be modified for this year to avoid physical contact. As each person approaches, the priest or minister distributing ashes will take a pinch of ashes between the thumb and forefinger. While rubbing the thumb and forefinger together, the minister will sprinkle the ashes over the crown of the head in the shape of a cross. While the ashes symbolize penance and contrition, they are also a reminder that God is gracious and merciful to those who call on Him with repentant hearts.

On Ash Wednesday, parishes and schools in the Diocese of Portland will also distribute rice bowls. Last year, parishioners and student contributed over $60,000 for the Catholic Relief Services’ (CRS) Rice Bowl program during Lent. The faith-in-action program encourages Catholics to pray for and learn about our brothers and sisters around the world, while filling cardboard bowls with monetary donations, honoring Jesus’ call to serve our neighbors. Bishop Deeley will be blessing rice bowls for distribution at the Ash Wednesday Mass at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and has encouraged other priests to join him in promoting the Rice Bowl program. According to CRS, 75 percent of the donations support CRS’ humanitarian relief programs in nearly 100 countries worldwide, while 25 percent of the proceeds are given to hunger and poverty alleviation efforts in the donors’ communities.

Lent is a period of intense spiritual renewal both for Christians who prepare to celebrate the annual commemoration of the Paschal mystery of Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection, as well as for the elect, who will be baptized and received into the full communion of the Church at Easter. A special Lenten section has been created on the Diocese of Portland’s website featuring Mass times; parish, prayer, and retreat opportunities; a “Saints of Lent” section; Scripture reflections; Holy Week details and information; and ways to share your gifts. To visit the site, which will be updated continually before and during Lent, visit www.portlanddiocese.org/lent-resources.