“I am a sinner, but I trust in the infinite mercy and patience of God…” — excerpt from Pope Francis in an interview in America Magazine after he was elected Pope.
On Ash Wednesday, February 18 from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., students, faculty, staff and administration of the College reflected together on these themes of penance and the kindness of God’s love through two prayer services and the distribution of ashes throughout the day.
“Repent and believe the Good News” were the words recited as individual leaders placed ashes on the foreheads of those who came to the Lounge. Campus Ministry student Lanie Francis, faculty member Erin Dougherty, MSN, RN, CPNP; MCCN President and Dean Christine Wynd, PhD, RN, and Campus Minister Ellen O’Shaughnessy, DMin, led the distribution.
A member of the Muslim faith tradition connected the experience with his fasting and the repentance of Ramadan. “We need to come together in this way.” he said. “We need forgiveness and peace.” Another person remarked: “It was awesome how Lanie looked into my eyes and really believed what she was saying.”
The two services, one at 7:30 a.m. and another at noon, focused on shared reflection on the 58th chapter of Isaiah written 2,100 years ago: “This rather is the fasting that I wish: releasing those bound unjustly, untying the thongs of the yoke, sharing your bread with the hungry, sheltering the oppressed and the homeless…Then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday…”
Students and faculty throughout the day wrote out reflections and provided artwork mounted on a collage board around themes of light, repentance, service, new life and God’s love and forgiveness. The following are examples of their writings:
“The more I struggle, the more I realize that God is with me every second of every day. I enjoy having a faith knowing that Someone is with me no matter what. Rejoice in this Lenten season, God Bless!”
“It is important—especially when we are busy—to lose sight of what we were called to do. We become so busy with ourselves that we forget to serve others. This Lent I will try to remember and put others first. I will be an example of light (depicted artistically on the poster board) by helping others in anyway they need.”
“Christ is always there for us, for me. He will never leave me even in the darkest days. He is with me now, tomorrow and forever. This passage I am reading from Isaiah is super encouraging in this time of Lent. It reminds me how blessed I am and reminds me of His love.”
“‘Don’t turn your back on your own.’ (Quote from reading from Isaiah 58) Don’t be so hard on yourself because God has a plan.”
“As a little girl in St. Brendan’s Grade School, I remember everyone asking each other ‘What are you giving up for Lent?’ ‘I’m giving up TV.’ ‘I’m giving up chocolate.’ ‘I’m giving up homework!’ Those comments didn’t seem to last long around Saint Patrick’s Day especially for those who gave up chocolate! But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to realize that Lent is about growing in my faith. I want to be about being closer in my relationship with God—making time to take care of myself and making an effort to help others.”
Song leader Julia Farkas provided a beautiful spirit to the noon service. Inspirational recordings of songs and hymns were played throughout the day. Yuliya Fonin, a student in Campus Ministry, provided examples of Psalms with a penitential theme.
The painting of the crucifixion projected on the screen was a work by Marc Chagall, a Jew who identified with the suffering of Jesus, a Jew. Chagall escaped the Holocaust with the help of people who took him to New York. He painted many images of the crucifixion as he likened the suffering of victims of the Holocaust with the suffering of Jesus.
From Ashes to Easter we die and we rise each day to love and serve one another.