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      Observing Ash Wednesday in the Heartland

      The Catholic Newman Center in Kirksville was filled up Wednesday with many people looking to be blessed by having ashes being shaped in the sign of the cross on their foreheads.

      For millions of Christians across the United States and the world, this marks Ash Wednesday, a day that marks the beginning of the season of Lent, the most solemn season in the church's liturgical calendar. For many this time is a spiritual journey.

      "Itâ??s a time to look at ourselves and say where we were this last year. Have we grown closer to our God and to other people? Are we at peace with ourselves? This gives us a chance to walk with Jesus as he walks to the cross. We can walk with him," said Father Bill Kottenstette of The Catholic Newman Center.

      Lent is also an opportunity for people give up certain things in their personal lives to help them become better people.

      "You are challenging your own self discipline. Youâ??re challenging how to invite God into your life so that the two of you together can take control of your life and that means letting go of some things. Let go of some things and see what it feels like to let go," Kottenstette said.

      Through prayer, giving back, and fasting it gives Christians the chance to do things for the greater good and to help them heal and be renewed.

      "Heâ??s setting us free to heal all of the diseases that we have and removing them. He wants you to be in peace," Kottenstette said.

      Whatever you are planning to give up or do differently to help you become a better person during these next 40 days Father Bill has this message for you to keep during this Lent season.

      "Itâ??s not a time of great sadness. It's a time of recognizing blessings and giving thanks. It's a time to ask God to help you," Kottenstette said.

      Lent lasts until Palm Sunday which starts Holy Week and runs until Easter Sunday which falls this year on March 31.

      Ash Wednesday and Lent are mostly observed by the Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian and Episcopalian denominations, and Roman Catholics.