Voices chanting “hold us in your mercy” reverberated around the Chapel today during the Ash Wednesday Service.
The service, which did not occur last year due to overlap with Winter Break, included biblical readings and a student testimonial from each grade about the meaning of Lent.
“I wanted students to be able to hear each other and where they were in terms of thinking about their own religious or spiritual life,” theology teacher Rachel Bundang, who organized the service, said.
Sophomore Claire Kosewic shared her belief that Lent is about self-improvement for the benefit of others while senior Corinne Sigmund spoke of growth through uncomfortable questions.
“Ash Wednesday is about understanding that we only have so long here on Earth and asking ourselves what we are going to make of that time,” freshman Hannah Kelliher, who attended a Catholic elementary school, said in her testimonial. “The Catholic season of Lent is one where we are asked to sacrifice, and focus on adjusting parts of our lives to be better people.”
Junior Samrawit Beyene, an Ethiopian Orthodox, spoke about the differences between her religion and Catholicism.
“I wondered why I had to fast for an extra 15 days,” Beyene said, as the chapel filled with laughter. “This Lent I hope to acknowledge more people, and I encourage you all to do the same.”
English teacher Julia Arce then invited students and faculty to write an improvement or addition to their life they would like to work on during Lent on a piece of purple tissue paper. The papers were collected in a bucket, and the congregation was given the chance to pick up a prayer stone and receive ashes on their forehead.
“It’s a new form of people writing their intention for the season of Lent,” Bundang said. “One of the new pieces is that those papers will be burned next Ash Wednesday to become the ashes next year, so it’s a nice continuity of community.”
Students were also given the opportunity to share what they wrote on their papers, speaking about spending more time with family, working on stubbornness and reaching out to others.
“We will close today with Pope Francis’ quote from Christian mystic John Chrysostom that ‘no act of virtue can be great if it is not followed by advantage for others,’” Arce said. “This prompt asks us to reflect on our own hopes and prayers and quest to deepen our capacity to celebrate and work for otherness.”
This story was edited to attribute the quote from Pope Francis as quoting from Christian mystic John Chrysostom.