Centre County residents celebrate Ash Wednesday

As Ash Wednesday began the season of Lent, the most popular items people were giving up for the next 40 days around the State College area seemed to be chocolate, sweets and Facebook.

But many also added that it’s more than just committing to not giving into temptation as a service to God.

“You’re giving up something you love, but for something even better,” said Marla Branson who attended service Wednesday and was marked with ashes at Our Lady of Victory Church in State College. “In a way, it marks a special beginning as you go through this journey.”

Many churches across Centre County held Communion and an imposition of ashes from palm branches from the Palm Sunday tree the year before.

Lent ends on Easter Sunday, and the St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church the Rev. Neil R. Dadey in Bellefonte said it gives church members an experience of conversion of heart in a special way.

He said the church encourages fasting, alms giving and prayer, but anyone committed to one thing or more is a testament to what the next 40 days means.

“It’s a preparation of conversion leading up to the grand celebration of Easter when the Lord gives us new life,” Dadey said. “He died for our sins.”

His church held three services at 9 a.m., noon and 6 p.m. to celebrate Ash Wednesday, which he said helps bring people together.

“We’re not expecting any more or any less people than we would usually have, but it’s a day that brings people together and recognizes the importantance of this journey as whole and puts the meaning of this in perspective for many,” he said.

St. John’s United Church of Christ the Rev. Anne Smith agreed as she added that Ash Wednesday and the 40-day Lent period reminds her and church members of their mortality.

“It reminds us that this life is temporary, and that life is better at the other end,” Smith said.