Art, music, prayer and reflection was offered to all students, faculty and staff on Ash Wednesday, March 1, marking the beginning of the Lenten Season.

“We invited everyone to drop in for a moment or stay for a while to reflect,” says Dr. Ellen O’Shaughnessy. “We wanted to provide an opportunity for people to take some time for mindfulness, for silence, journaling or perhaps to sketch their prayer – to sketch an image that connects with their thoughts and heart,” she adds.

Dr. O’Shaughnessy notes that Pope Francis says: There is a spark of Divine Life within each of us. “Because Pope Francis loves the works of Marc Chagall, a Jewish painter who identified with the suffering Jesus, who also was a Jew, we projected one of Chagall’s most famous paintings, as a way for people to get in touch with that Divine Spark within themselves,” she adds.

The ongoing prayer time continued for four and half hours and Dr. O’Shaughnessy offered ashes to those who wanted to receive them. She noted that, although Ash Wednesday is a meaningful Christian tradition – the beginning of the Lenten Season, leading to new life, it invites all of us to renew, much like the spirit of Ramadan and Yom Kippur.

“Ash Wednesday reminds us that we are loved, we are forgiven and we are called out into the community, I’ll never forget the words that a man who follows Islam said to me when he came for ashes last year,” she recalls. “He said that we all need peace. To me, receiving ashes is a concrete way of saying that we are called to trust in forgiveness – a forgiveness that is a connectedness with one another, that leads to peace.”

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