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Kildare school apologises after students 'received burns' on their foreheads on Ash Wednesday

Pupils at the Holy Family Secondary School in Newbridge reported marks on their forehead after the incident.

File photo
File photo
Image: Danny Lawson/PA Images

A SCHOOL IN Newbridge in Kildare has written to parents to apologise after an incident where a number of students received burns on their foreheads when being given blessed ashes last week for Ash Wednesday. 

The priest who administered the ashes separately wrote to them explaining that it “remains somewhat of a mystery as to why or how this happened”, as he also apologised. 

Ash Wednesday marks the traditional start of Lent for Christians, where ashes are ceremonially placed on people’s foreheads.

Staff and pupils at Holy Family Secondary School in Newbridge were receiving the ashes when a number started to report feelings of discomfort and pain. 

One guardian of a child at the school told TheJournal.ie that some were left with “visible” marks on their forehead.

The school subsequently wrote to parents saying expressing “deep regret” for “any distress that has been caused”.

In the letter, seen by TheJournal.ie, the school said: “Blessed ashes were distributed to those who wished to receive them in the oratory and a number of students and staff received burns as a result.

Once we became aware of the problem, we immediately ceased the distribution of the blessed ashes and we administered first aid.

In the letter from parish priest Fr Paul Dempsey to the parents and school, he explained the process whereby the ashes were created.

He said: “The ashes are produced from the burning of palm (evergreen tree) that is left over after Palm Sunday ceremonies. The palm is burned without the use of any accelerant. After the palm is burned, it is put through a sieve to refine it. Is it then stored until Ash Wednesday. 

During mass on Ash Wednesday the ashes are blessed and holy water is added to them. They are then placed on the forehead of the recipient. This process has been followed for years and was no different this year.

Fr Dempsey said that the ashes were put in small plastic containers before they were distributed. Holy Family Secondary School was among a number of recipients of the batch, and the priest had heard of one other primary school student having an adverse reaction.

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“Nobody else from the parish or other schools has mentioned any adverse reaction, which adds to mystery,” he said. 

As well as extending sincere apologies for the incident on behalf of the parish, the priest advised that he would inform the school immediately if he discovered the cause of the ashes resulting in those injuries.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, Fr Dempsey said he had no other comment to add beyond the contents of the letter. 

TheJournal.ie has contacted Holy Family Secondary School for comment. 

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Sean Murray

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