Staff Photo: John Boh Alayna Tishey, 6, of Suwanee, receives ashes from Reverend Thomas Zahuta as Ash Wednesday is observed at The Catholic Church of Saint Monica in Duluth. An large turnout of parishioners attended an early evening Mass to receive ashes, marking the first day of Lent.
DULUTH -- Hundreds of people flocked to the Catholic Church of St. Monica in Duluth on Wednesday afternoon to celebrate the holy holiday of Ash Wednesday.
With a full parking lot, parishioners parked on Buford Highway and stood in the back of the church to get a glimpse of the priest as he spoke. People of all ages, races and ethics groups gathered together at St. Monica -- and that was just a snapshot of the number of worshippers to celebrate the day.
Christian faiths of all kinds observe the day throughout Gwinnett County, including Catholics, Anglicans, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians and some Baptist denominations.
"Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the Lent season and we return to God with heartfelt prayers," Father Tom Zahuta said while speaking to the congregation. "We should be giving to the poor and our neighbors."
The day marks the beginning of this 40-day liturgical period of prayer and fasting.
Ash Wednesday received its name from the practice of placing ashes on the forehead in the sign of the cross from burnt palms from the previous year's Palm Sunday. According to the Bible, the ashes represent mourning. They also represent repentance from sins and omissions.
With so much significant, Ash Wednesday means a lot to those who worship.
"As a little child, I remember this to be a very beautiful season (in the church) for my family and I," Mary Lund of Buford said. "This means a lot to me because it was the time in life that Christ was preparing to die for all of us."
Mariam Perez of Suwanee agreed.
"I always go to Ash Wednesday because it means a lot to me," she said. "It is important since it is the beginning of Lent."
Next year, Ash Wednesday will be held on Feb. 13.