Ash Wednesday

From left, Janice McIntyre of Bayou Vista receives the imposition of ashes from the Rev. Bill Rogalla of St. Bernadette Catholic Church in Bayou Vista during an Ash Wednesday service this morning. Catholic churches, and some Protestant churches in the area, celebrated Ash Wednesday, which begins the season of Lent.
(The Daily Review Photo by Jean L. McCorkle)

By ZACHARY FITZGERALD zfitzgerald@daily-review.com

Area churches, both Catholic and Protestant, celebrated Ash Wednesday today marking the beginning of the 40-day season of reflection known as Lent.
The imposition of the ashes is a “very powerful way of beginning the season of Lent,” the Rev. Douglas Courville of St. Stephen Catholic Church in Berwick said. Courville expected churches to be full today for Ash Wednesday services. “I think on Ash Wednesday, especially Catholics, you just have a sense of mortality. There’s some day that we’ll be reduced to ashes and will be reduced to the dust of the earth from which we were created,” Courville said.
Pharr Chapel United Methodist Church in Morgan City also holds an Ash Wednesday service. “What we do in the service of ashes is pretty much like the Catholic church, a remembrance of where we came from and our mortality,” the Rev. John Locascio of Pharr Chapel United Methodist Church said. The ashes are signs of mortality and repentance, he said.
Courville’s theme for this year’s Lent comes from the book “Walden” by Henry David Thoreau. Courville’s inspiration for the theme comes from the line where Thoreau says he went to the woods to learn how to live life deliberately and discovered he had not lived at all, he said.
Courville said, “That’s my inspiration for Lent this year is to make it a time of more solitude, a time of a deeper prayer, a time to learn how to live life deliberately.” Living deliberately includes making good use of time and striving to be a better person, Courville said.
Lent ends on Holy Saturday and is a time of preparation for Easter where people fast and pray, Locascio said. “In the Methodist Church, we don’t look at so much of giving up things, but it’s adding to things like maybe works of service,” Locascio said.
The Lenten season is a time for Locascio to reflect on his own life as a Christian and maybe try to do a little something extra, he said. During Lent, Pharr Chapel holds a free lunch each Wednesday from noon to 1 p.m. that anyone is welcome to attend. Locascio will read devotionals during those lunches with the theme being “listening for God,” he said.
Rexall Ann Howard of Morgan City attended the 6:30 a.m. Ash Wednesday Mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Morgan City. Howard plans to attend Mass every day during the Lenten season. The imposition of ashes is meaningful to Howard because she has lost four members of her family, she said.
Howard was planning to fast today and put money that she would have spent on food in her Catholic Relief Services Rice Bowl to feed those in need, she said.
The sermon for the first Sunday of Lent is always from the gospel of Matthew, Mark or Luke and the account of Jesus’ going through 40 days of temptation in the desert, Courville said.
The peak of the Lenten season is on Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter, when the church will “commemorate solemnly” Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem. Holy Thursday will commemorate Holy Communion and “the washing of the feet to remind one another of the importance of being of service,” Courville said. Good Friday will be a solemn commemoration of Jesus’ death on the cross, Courville said.
Good Friday is the only day during the year when no Mass is celebrated in the Catholic Church, Courville said. Lent is “a very prayerful time of the year,” Courville said. “It’s another opportunity enriched with beautiful passages from the Bible. It’s a celebration of Mass that helps to deepen our personal relationship with Christ Jesus,” Courville said.
Both Locascio and Courville said the ashes used in their services come from palm branches used during the previous year’s Palm Sunday service. St. Stephen Catholic Church will hold an Ash Wednesday service at 5:30 p.m. today. Pharr Chapel United Methodist Church will hold its Ash Wednesday service at 6 p.m. today.
Bishop Michael Jarrell of the Diocese of Lafayette released his Ash Wednesday message last week.
“People receive ashes because they admit their sinfulness and because they seek God’s forgiveness. Lent is a time of preparation for the celebration of the Lord’s resurrection at Easter,” Jarrell said in the message.
“Lent is a time of subtracting and adding. People doing penance try to eliminate from their lives those things that are contrary to the Gospel. They try to add to their lives the virtues of the Gospel,” Jarrell said.

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