Holy Mark: Catholics celebrate Ash Wednesday with Mass at UTRGV

The Catholic Campus Ministry at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley held its annual Ash Wednesday Mass celebration Wednesday on the university campus.

Ash Wednesday marks the first day of Lent, when people have their foreheads marked with crosses made from ashes.

“Ash Wednesday starts the 40 days of Lent, so we begin by marking our foreheads with the sign of the cross with ashes,” said Bishop Daniel E. Flores of the Catholic Diocese of Brownsville, who presided over Wednesday’s Mass.

“Lent is a period where we ask the Lord to really make us more generous and purify our hearts to be able to walk with Him all the way through Good Friday and Easter.”

Flores said ashes are used because it’s a symbol of repentance.

“Ashes are an ancient scriptural symbol of repentance, and the prophets used to put ashes as a sign of really wanting to change our hearts,” Flores said.

“It’s also a reminder, like one of the prayers says, ‘You are dust and unto dust you shall return,’ we were made from dust and the Lord breathes life into us, and we ask Him to breathe life into the ashes of our lives,” Flores said.

Catholic Campus Ministry President Alexa Perez said the student organization holds an Ash Wednesday Mass every year.

“This is a Catholic tradition, and it’s very important for us,” Perez said. “Basically, our objective is to try to spread Jesus’ love around the campus and around all the young people.”

People who participate give up something for the 40 day period, including things like candy, coffee or alcohol.

Last year, Catholic Campus Ministry Coordinator Karla Rodriguez gave up smoking for Lent and hasn’t smoked since.

“I haven’t really decided what I’m going to give up this year but I’m waiting for that call for the voice of Jesus, and so that’s what I’m doing this year,” Rodriguez said.