Churches across the country are finding innovative ways of dealing with the impact of Level 5 restrictions on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.

In west Cork, Monsignor Aidan O'Driscoll and the parish council at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Clonakilty put their heads together and came up with the idea of a 'drive-thru', which has proven hugely popular.

"The bishop was saying to us all we got to be creative, we got to be creative in these days because of the changed circumstances. So we racked our brains and decided that this would be a good idea and the response has been very good," said Monsignor O'Driscoll.

Even before early morning mass had finished, people had begun socially distanced queuing outside the church.

Josephine O'Sullivan, who picked up an envelope with ashes and a prayer in it for herself and her neighbour, said she thought it was a very good idea.

"I've a daughter working from home, my husband is not too good, so I can take it up to them now, at least," she said.

The Centra store opposite the church also took a delivery of envelopes for shoppers.

Owner Ray Keane said he was delighted to help out as Monsignor O'Driscoll dropped off up to a hundred envelopes to be given out to customers.

"Funny, there has been a pile of people in and out already and coming back, so the place will be fairly busy now for the rest of the day coming through," he said.

Stopping in her car in the church grounds to pick up ashes for her family, Orla Scully said it was a great opportunity and you could feel "a little buzz" about the place with excitement.

"I will be going home now to my three children, my husband and granddad - we are all at home, and I will be blessing them when I go home," she said.

"It's an important beginning to Lent and it is an exciting one this year!"

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