Newman hosts Ash Wednesday service on Quad

At 1:45 p.m. Wednesday, a line of about 60 students gathered on the Quad to have their foreheads crossed with ash.

The students were participating in an Ash Wednesday service held by St. John’s Catholic Newman Center in celebration of the beginning of Lent.

The University has nearly 11,000 Catholic students on campus this semester, said Father Anthony Co. The Newman Center hosted the ceremony on the Quad so that students would be able to attend while walking between classes.

The Newman Center also held several masses at noon and in the evening. Co was one of the priests present at the service on the Quad distributing the ashes to groups of students.

“The point of Lent is to listen to the needs and desires of the heart, which can be found with fulfillment in Christ,” Co said.

Lent is a Christian occasion that consists of 40 days of preparation before the resurrection of Christ, otherwise known as Easter. Although attending mass on Ash Wednesday is not required by the Catholic calendar, this is the most attended mass of the entire year, Co said.

As a 2005 graduate of the University with a degree in philosophy and Eastern religions, Co said he has been a priest for about five years, and has worked at the Newman Center for about a year.

He said the heart craves more than what this world can offer, and he describes the search for understanding Jesus as the meaning of Lent.

“If you go to the Grand Canyon and you look at it, you’re not going to come away and say ‘Oh now I’m just satisfied with beauty.’ The heart just craves infinitely more.” Co said. As the students waited in line for the ritual of receiving ashes on the forehead, two sacristans, Emily Pinheiro, senior in LAS, and Maura Schelhammer, junior in LAS, stood in assistance to the priests.

Sacristans are students who work in the chapel and teach students more about the mass. Both said they believed that the visual representation of the ashes symbolized a beginning of something new to many Catholics.

“I think people see this as a good time to make a fresh start, turn over a new leaf. Kind of like a Catholic resolution,” Pinheiro said.

For Catholics, not only at the University but worldwide, Lent is a time to count down to Easter and prioritize the most important things in their lives and in their hearts.

“Ash Wednesday is the start of a new season where I focus on how I can become a better Catholic,” Schelhammer said.