Pastor offers express version of Ash Wednesday to MSU students

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Pastor Sarah Midzalkowski standing beside a sign that reads "Ashes to Go."

Anna Liz Nichols

Pastor Sarah Midzalkowski waiting for students to pass by.

In observance of the first day of Lent, some churches have adopted a fresh take on Ash Wednesday. “Ashes to Go” allows people who might not have been able to make it to church to quickly receive prayer and an ash cross on their forehead.

Standing in front of the buzzing Wells Hall Starbucks, Pastor Sarah Midzalkowski offered passing students “Ashes to Go” and gift cards to Starbucks in lieu of the commonplace free coffee at church.

Some students walked up to her exclaiming, “My schedule’s packed, I don’t think I can make it to church today,” “It’s been a long time,” and “Really?” Despite March 1 being frigid and windy, the Florida native met them all with a smile and a warm demeanor.

Molly Rust smiling with an ash cross on her forehead.

Anna Liz Nichols

She said she offered “Ashes to Go” because it’s a great way for students to reflect on their lives and it fits into busy schedules. Anyone, regardless of religious status, was permitted to partake because Midzalkowski said it was a learning experience, a look into Christianity.

“We’re remembering that we belong to God and the mark of the sign of the cross is that we are loved by Christ and that we are to love others. We need to remember that while we can because life is short. That comes directly from the Bible,” said the pastor referencing Genesis 3:19. “Life is too short not to take things seriously like our faith and our relationship with other human beings.

Sierra Fish has an ash cross on her forehead and two cups of Starbucks drinks.

Anna Liz Nichols

Sierra Fish proudly showing off her ash cross.

Sierra Fish, an education major at Michigan State, stopped by already wearing an ash cross on her forehead. Student teaching at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish School, she said she took her kindergarteners to Mass and for some of them it was their first time receiving ash.

“They were like, ‘Is it warm? Is it hot?’ and I’m like ‘No! It’s just ash.’” Fish said laughing and then explaining why she enjoys partaking in Ash Wednesday. “I kind of like people to know that I am Catholic and this is kind of a way to tell. Everyone can see. It’s the kickoff to Lent and so it’s 40 days until Easter now, so it’s kind of like opening day.”

Midzalkowski said she appreciates that the ash cross on the forehead is a visual representation of faith and that it’s amazing that anyone of any faith in America can publically display their religion given our historic separation of church and state.

“We have in this country the ability to worship how we believe, or not to worship at all and that’s a true blessing,” said Midzalkowski. “The more we are able to help people exercise that and understand that, the better off we are and the more tolerant society will be.”

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