Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church parishioner Debra Schradersaid she was giving up chocolate and sweets for Lent.
Fellow churchgoer Carol Fischer said she was putting caffeine on hold, and Penn State student and church member Jessica Montemayor said she was going to control her spending and donate money saved to a local charity.
Those are some of the top things people are putting on hiatus during the Lenten holiday season, which started with Ash Wednesday.
“If you don’t know what to give up, I always tell people to fast,” said the Rev. Matthew Laffey, with the Penn State Catholic Campus Ministry. “Once you do it, you see amazing benefits and it reminds us that we have too much.”
Father Valentine Bradley, at Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church, said the season isn’t just about making sacrifices.
“As kids we give something up. As adults we can add something positive to our lives,” Bradley said. “You can see a lot of people giving up sweets, alcohol or something else, and others aren’t giving up anything, but making promises to attend Mass more or making another promise to themselves. Adding something positive to your life is just as important as giving up the negative if it helps you become a better person.”
Lent lasts until Easter, which is April 20 this year. Bradley said it’s the time of year that allows people to reflect.
“It’s important because it reminds everyone to look at their lives and see what they can do to be better people,” Bradley said. “One of the greatest commandments is love your neighbor as yourself and reminds us to have a positive life.”
A tradition at Ash Wednesday services is the placing of ashes on the foreheads of churchgoers.
“Remember, for you were made from dust and to dust you will return,” Laffey said. “That’s our message, as it’s a day of self-reflection and repentance.”
Penn State Catholic Campus Ministry held Mass four times on Wednesday and held a special prayer session at noon.
Our Lady of Victory on Westerly Parkway also offered Mass four times.
Bradley said that a 7 a.m. Mass drew 250 to 300 people. Usually, he said, there are 30 to 40 in the church at that time.
Church volunteers, including Deacon David C. Lapinski, traveled to hospitals and nursing homes for those who couldn’t make it to church.
“I think people are looking forward to Easter and taking a time out to visit how they do in their spiritual life, and time of repentance to seek God’s mercy,” Bradley said. “Those ashes are a sign of scripture and sign of repentance.”