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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Local churches prepare for Ash Wednesday

Feb. 14 marks the beginning of Lent
Samuel Falade
A view of St. Mary’s Church from Church Avenue in College Station on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024.

As Ash Wednesday approaches, churches in College Station are gearing up for the distribution of ashes for over 7,000 students and residents.

Ash Wednesday marks the start of the Lenten season and is a holy day for many Western Christian denominations. Following Ash Wednesday, there are 40 days excluding Sundays before Easter.

For many Christians, Lent symbolizes a period of repentance in preparation for Easter. Those who observe Lent often give up an item of luxury, like sweets or social media. Ash Wednesday serves as a visible reminder of the start of Lent, and signals to other Christians to begin their Lenten fasts.

St. Mary’s Catholic Center is preparing for the day of prayer and fasting with on-campus evangelizing, as well as nine ash services and masses — four on campus and five off campus. In the Northgate District alone, four churches will have an ash service on Wednesday, Feb. 14, and St. Mary’s is the largest of them.

“[The] ashes are a reminder of our mortality …,” Father Will Straten, former Texas A&M student and St. Mary’s head pastor said. “Aggies especially want to be challenged, and I think that remembering that we will die is challenging for us.”

Straten said the church gave out ashes for around 7,000 people last year.

“I would say this year we hope to have even more,” Straten said. “[St.Mary’s will] have an ash service or mass for every student’s schedule, starting in the early morning and going until 7 p.m.

Straten said Lent is a period of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.   

“It’s found in the scripture of 40 days of Jesus in the desert, so it’s fitting for us to go through a 40 day period of penance as well,” Straten said. “Repentance is emphasized during Lent.”

Straten said Lent is a tangible reminder of one’s faith. However, Straten said anyone can receive ashes.

A&M United Methodist and University Lutheran Chapel are also hosting ash services on Northgate.

Health sophomore Emma Sellers, who works as a coffee evangelist at St. Mary’s coffee bar, said it is a unique experience to share the gospel. 

“By explaining, ‘I have ashes on my head because it’s Ash Wednesday and this marks the beginning of this time Jesus spent in the desert,’ it’s really important to us,” Sellers said.

According to St. Mary’s, the celebration is “one of the most-attended holy days of the year by Catholics around the world.” The ashes are traditionally made by burning last year’s Palm Sunday palms and are then marked in the shape of a cross on a person’s forehead.

Straten said St. Mary’s is hoping more people will come to encounter Christ. 

“I would like students to know that we have space for them,” Straten said

Sellers said St. Mary’s is a tight-knit community for Catholic students. 

“[Anyone] can really find a home here in the church because we all have a desire for God,” Sellers said. “ … I’ve really found my place here.”

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