Ash Wednesday begins Lenten journey
Catholics began the journey of Lent Feb. 22, gathering for Ash Wednesday Masses across the archdiocese.
Although it is not a holy day of obligation, it is the traditional way to begin preparing for Easter, and Masses were crowded at noon at several churches, including St. Mary Magdalene, St. Margaret Mary and Our Lady of Guadalupe, all in Omaha.
Judy Szaro, a member of Ss. Peter and Paul Parish in Omaha, said she goes to Ash Wednesday Mass because the ashes remind her that this life will end, and it is important to focus on things of heaven.
A member of St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Omaha, Mike Smith, said he has attended Ash Wednesday Masses since he was a child. The ashes remind him to turn away from sin and improve his relationship with Christ, he said.
Father Gregory Baxter, pastor of St. Margaret Mary Parish, said in his homily Lent is a season to find freedom from sin and hope in God. Prayer, fasting and almsgiving are important ways to let go and trust God, he said.
"We do become too attached to the things of this world," he said.
A parishioner at the Mass, Joan Malouf, said her Lenten observance will include giving up the occasional glass of wine she enjoys, partly to recognize the suffering a relative will have to endure as she undergoes treatment for breast cancer.
Malouf said she also hopes to attend daily Mass through Lent. Such efforts can help "you grow in grace," she said.