Bishop O’Connell served as the principal celebrant of the Ash Wednesday Mass which marks the beginning of the season of Lent, a time of spiritual preparation before Easter. Mike Ehrmann photo
Bishop O’Connell served as the principal celebrant of the Ash Wednesday Mass which marks the beginning of the season of Lent, a time of spiritual preparation before Easter. Mike Ehrmann photo

The Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption, Trenton, was filled with a diverse group of people on Ash Wednesday, March 2. Some people arrived with their families, others were on their lunch break from work, many were daily communicants in their home parish.

While the congregants all came from different walks of life, as Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., pointed out in the opening of his homily, there is something that connects them.

View Bishop O’Connell’s homily for Ash Wednesday HERE

“Whatever labels we may use to describe ourselves or one another, Lent unites us in a common recognition that we all have sinned; that we all have failed; and we all are in need of the mercy of God rooted as we are in a community in the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Bishop O’Connell served as the principal celebrant of the Ash Wednesday Mass which marks the beginning of the season of Lent, a time of spiritual preparation before Easter.

“There is no better time than these 40 days, the season of Lent, to reflect and think about the state of our souls and as we mark our foreheads with the Cross, to embrace the cross, not simply on our foreheads but in our lives,” he said.

He encouraged the faithful to consider making Lent not only a time of giving up or doing something, but to incorporate both practices in their faith journey.

“We do without to create an emptiness, a hunger for the Lord Jesus in our lives. And we do something to show the Lord we are serious about following him.”

Bishop O’Connell shared the request of Pope Francis, to recognize Ash Wednesday as a day of prayer and fasting for peace in the Ukraine and offered prayers for an end to the violence.

View the Photo Gallery HERE

Alex DeVicaris and Jen Larsen are co-workers who attended the Mass together.

DeVicaris, a parishioner from Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish, Hainesport, shared how the words of Bishop O’Connell resonated his plans for Lent.

“When he said ‘we’re all sinners’ and we can do better, [Lent is] about trying to improve yourself. It’s acknowledging who you are and trying to be better,” he offered.

While DiVicaris plans to curtail his swearing, Larsen, who is from the Diocese of Metuchen, acknowledged that while she isn’t quite sure what she’s giving up, she knows what she wants to do.

“I haven’t been in God’s house in two years because of the pandemic and general uneasiness,” she admitted, “so my goal is to get back to attending Mass regularly.”

This is a sentiment that was shared by Mala Wright, a parishioner in the Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption.

“It’s a blessing to be able to be here in person,” she said after the Mass and shared her plans to make the most of the season of Lent.

“Every day I am going to try and give up something different. I am going to try to be more patient and kinder to people. You never know what someone is going through so even just a smile can brighten someone’s day.”

Al Dillione, Mary Mother of the Church Parish, Bordentown, shared his plans for Lent.

“Lent is a time where I am extra diligent about practicing my faith. It’s a time of spiritual renewal for me.”

In addition to attending Holy Hour at his parish and the Stations of the Cross weekly, Dillione shared one of his daily Lenten practices.

“I am always reflective during the day and take time to do a quick prayer and ask the Lord to help me with things that I am struggling with [and] to prepare myself for the salvation of our Lord, Jesus Christ.”