LAWRENCEVILLE -- Since 19-year-old Nicole Merizalde was unable to attend her Catholic church on Wednesday, she was excited to see a group outside Georgia Gwinnett College administering ashes on the first day of Lent.
"It's really considerate of them," said Merizalde, who stopped by St. Edward's Episcopal's "Ashes to Go" booth between classes late Wednesday afternoon. "I'm glad I'm able to take part in it...Ash Wednesday is an important start to the Lent season."
During Lent, the faithful commit to fasting or giving up certain types of luxuries as penitence.
Merizalde said she feels the religious ritual -- which uses palm ashes from the previous year's Palm Sunday -- is a good way "to prepare you to give up whatever it is you've decided to give up."
Church member Vicki McDonnell placed ashes on Merizalde's forehead, while Father Kent Branstetter said an Ash Wednesday prayer.
"Almighty and merciful God, you hate nothing you have made, and forgive the sins of all who are penitent; create in us new and contrite hearts, so that when we turn to you and confess our sins and acknowledge our need, we may receive your full and perfect forgiveness, through Jesus Christ our Redeemer."
Branstetter said the response to their "Ashes to Go" booth had been "very positive."
"There are some that will hide their face and walk off, but a good number are very cordial about it," he said. "Many will just walk straight up to us and say, 'I'm not going to be able to get to church today, and I'd love to get ashes.'"
Youth Director Wallace Benton said the group hoped that college students could visit the booth "and learn more about Episcopalians or Christianity...and get ashes if they would like to prepare themselves for the upcoming season of Lent."
St. Edward's Episcopal Church is located at 737 Moon Road, Lawrenceville. For more information, visit www.stedwardsonline.org.