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Palm leaves burned for Ash Wednesday

Seventh and eighth grade students at St. Mary Central in Martins Ferry watch as palm leaves burn. Palms from last year’s Palm Sunday Mass were burned to prepare the ashes for today’s Ash Wednesday Mass.

MARTINS FERRY — St. Mary Central School students participated in the burning of dried palm leaves Tuesday to make ashes for today’s Ash Wednesday services.

Principal Theresa Young said the ashes were then blessed by the Rev. Thomas Marut, pastor of St. Mary Catholic Church in Martins Ferry and pastoral administrator at the school.

The palm leaves are from last year’s Palm Sunday service.

Palm Sunday is when Jesus entered Jerusalem as the world’s savior. People laid palm leaves on the road for him to pass on.

Young said when the ashes are placed on the students’ foreheads during their service this morning by Marut, they either say, “Remember man you are dust and to dust you will return” or “Turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel.”

Ryan Hennessey, an eighth-grader at St. Mary, helps burn palm leaves.

She noted the church will have a second Ash Wednesday service at 5 p.m. today for the public.

Ash Wednesday also is part of the Lenten season, which is a period of 40 days of fasting and repentance before Easter, when Jesus was resurrected following his crucifixion.

Young said it is important for the students to participate in the burning of the palm leaves as it signals their preparation for the season of Lent. During Lent, the students will observe a season of penance to make up for their sins by making sacrifices themselves, such as not eating meat on Fridays or saying extra prayers.

“It’s the beginning of the journey he went through,” Young said of Jesus.

Young said during the Ash Wednesday service the ashes are used to make a cross on a person’s forehead.

“Some people don’t realize the significance of the ashes. A lot times people think your forehead is dirty. They don’t realize you have gone to church to get that, the cross of Jesus,” she said.

Young noted this year she personally plans to do more prayer and meditation instead of giving up something for Lent. In the past, she said, she has given up drinking diet Pepsi for 40 days — something she said was difficult to do. Another time she gave up one of her favorite foods, potato chips. On Easter morning she really enjoyed having barbecue chips again, she noted.

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