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Local Christians observe Ash Wednesday

DeKALB – For the next 40 days, Kassandra Salgado won’t be eating pancakes for breakfast.

Salgado, a parishioner at the Newman Catholic Student Center and a sophomore at Northern Illinois University, plans to give up pancakes and pray the rosary every day in observance of Lent, a Christian time of remembrance and penance. Lent began Wednesday with Ash Wednesday.

“It’s important because it’s the start of the Lenten season, which is when we get to grow in our faith,” Salgado said.

Christians throughout the world received ashes on their foreheads Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Many local churches offered multiple masses and services throughout the day.

“The ashes are a traditional sign of penitence,” said the Rev. Matthew McMorrow, director and parochial administrator of the Newman Catholic Student Center, 512 Normal Road on the NIU campus.

McMorrow said Lent is the time for Christians to recognize their sins and prepare for the joy of Easter by working to be better and holier.

“If you do something every day that’s going to make you better, you’ll be more ready for Easter than you were before we started Lent,” McMorrow said.

Most Christians observe the 40 days of Lent by giving up something they see that distracts them from God. Others prefer to do something extra to bring them closer to God. Some do both.

The Rev. Jon Hutchison, senior pastor at First United Methodist Church, 321 Oak St., DeKalb, said Ash Wednesday is a time for Christians to strengthen themselves and their faith.

“It’s a reminder that we are mortal beings and we all started out the same,” he said. “We also are reminded of the Gospel news, which is that there is salvation through Jesus Christ.”

While most churches held Ash Wednesday services, the Rev. Stacy Walker-Frontjes of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 900 Normal Rd. in DeKalb, observed the day in a less traditional way.

For the third consecutive year, St. Paul’s offered “Ashes on the Go,” an imposition of ashes for those passing by the church and campus ministry locations.

More than 100 people came by their Grace Place Campus Ministry location at 401 Normal Road, DeKalb, Walker-Frontjes said. The program became an opportunity to educate others about the church.

“We feel like it’s worth doing because I see it as an extension of our hospitality and an evangelism effort in the world,” Walker-Frontjes said.

The day also brought great conversations about the church, which she said is always open to anyone.

“By offering this in the public square, we are reminding them that everyone is God’s beloved child,” she said.

Walker-Frontjes hopes her efforts to get out in the community on Ash Wednesday encourages people to seek the church.

“The church does care about them whether or not they’re in the church,” she said. “I hope that people will be encouraged to keep a holy Lent and continue to pray and be closer to God.”

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