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St. John University Parish hosts Ash Wednesday service

Erin Langan brushed her blonde hair back from her forehead Wednesday afternoon, so the ashes would show.

They were a visual reminder, she said, of her Catholic faith that she said has been with her for as long as she can remember.

Wednesday was literally marked by the faithful in Morgantown and elsewhere on the globe.

It was Ash Wednesday, and at WVU’s St. John University Parish, Langan and other believers lined up to have ashes smeared onto their foreheads in the sign of a cross.

a congregation from above on Ash Wednesday
Reverend Walter Jagela speaks on Wednesay, for the start of Lent.

Those ashes were a lyrical, visual and textural representation of the life and death of Christ.

The observance was also the spiritual launch of Lent and its 40-day journey to Easter.

That’s the day believers say Christ was resurrected following his death by crucifixion on that cross.

“Lent,” comes from the Anglo-Saxon word, lencten, which means “spring.”

And Lent’s 40 days are how long Christ was said to have spent in the desert, shaping the ministry that would endure, despite his earthly death.

The pews at St. John were packed Wednesday, mostly with students, including Langan.

Langan, a lifelong Catholic who regularly attends Mass at St. John, said Ash Wednesday and Lent mean spiritual stability, for her.

With a busy and intense class schedule — she’s pursuing neurology and sees herself going into medicine or research — spiritual stability is a wonderful thing, she said, smiling.

In these politically divisive climes, she especially leans on her faith, she said.

That’s even more so in West Virginia, where Catholics are still grappling with the aftershocks from the public unraveling of now-disgraced Bishop Michael Bransfield.

 Bransfield was ousted from his leadership role in the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston over charges of sexual impropriety and lavish spending during his tenure.

 “My Catholicism is the one thing that’s consistent in my life right now,” she said.

Reverend Walter Jagela speaks on Wednesay, for the start of Lent.

The spiritual season Ash Wednesday heralds is also a time of personal sacrifice.

People “give up things for Lent” every season — usually in the form of coffee, alcohol, desserts and other creature comforts deemed to be unhealthy.

The Rev. Walt Jagela, the parish priest of St. John, wants more of a Lenten immersion, however, with all the sacrifice, prayer and reflection that implies.

“I’m asking for a promise that during Lent, you may become,” he said.

Reverend Walter Jagela places an ash cross on the forehead of Lawrence Iorio on Wednesay, for the start of Lent.