By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA – In many parishes across the Archdiocese, parishioners are invited to return their blessed palm branches received at Mass last Palm Sunday to their church for the burning of palm prior to Ash Wednesday, March 9, the first day of Lent.

That means Catholics who so choose have less than a month to bring their blessed palm branches to their church.

Between now and Ash Wednesday, the blessed palm branches are reduced to ashes, typically by the parish sacristan. {{more}}

On Ash Wednesday, the priest celebrating the Mass or liturgy of the Word blesses the ashes which are subsequently marked in the shape of a cross on the foreheads of the faithful by the priest or a deacon.

The ashes serve as a reminder to the faithful of their mortality.

“In a time when our society calls for more visible signs of who we are, the imposed ashes speak eloquently to ourselves and to others that everything the Christian does is marked by the sign of the cross,” said Father G. Dennis Gill, director of the archdiocesan Office for Worship.

If Catholics choose not to return their old, blessed palm branches to the parish church, they should properly dispose of the palm in their homes through burning, burying or breaking the palm into small pieces.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent for Christians throughout the world.

Lent is the penitential season of prayer, fasting and almsgiving from Ash Wednesday through Holy Thursday, in preparation for Easter.

It is also the time for catechumens – those who have not been baptized – to prepare for the sacraments of initiation including baptism, confirmation and the holy Eucharist.

The 40-day period of Lent culminates in Holy Week. Holy Thursday is April 21; Good Friday is April 22 and Easter is April 24.

For more information, consult your pastor or call the Archdiocese’s Office for Worship at 215-587-3537 or e-mail

CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at 215-587-2468 or