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In a time when the Roman Catholic church has been thrust into the national spotlight following Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation, local parishioners gathered for the somber celebration of Ash Wednesday— the beginning of the holy season known as Lent.

The 3 p.m. service at Holy Family R.C. Church in Fresh Meadows was packed with faithful of all ages. Despite the fact the day is not a holy day of obligation, Father Casper Furnari couldn’t help but notice the church on this day, and in years past, has been more full than a regular Sunday service.

“Every Lent is a season of renewal and rededication,” he said.

Catholics traditionally attend Ash Wednesday services to have ashes in the form of a cross applied to their forehead. While it is being applied, the priest utters the phrase “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

During Lent, Catholics traditionally sacrifice a material good for the 40 days of the season.

Parishioner Theresa Sheehan said she would be giving up chocolate. Sheehan’s sacrifice, she said, reminds her of how fortunate she is in life.

“It makes me think I am fortunate enough to have all this stuff,” she said. “It makes me appreciate my life more on a daily basis.”

Joseph Healy said instead of giving up something for Lent, he would look to do something positive.

“Doing something positive for someone else, I think, is better than giving something else up,” he said, summarizing the season of Lent as a time to do good deeds. Healy said he hadn’t even thought of a sacrifice until that morning.

Furnari said this Lent would be historical considering the pope’s “shocking” announcement on Monday.

“Pope Benedict celebrated Ash Wednesday but toward the end of Lent we’ll have a new pope, whoever that might be, celebrating mass,” he said.

“It takes humility and courage to make that decision.”




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