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Commuters receive 'Ashes to Go' for Lent

Published: Wednesday, March 5, 2014 12:35 p.m. CST • Updated: Wednesday, March 5, 2014 11:38 p.m. CST
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(Sandy Bressner – sbressner@shawmedia.com)
Katie Thomson of St. Charles Episcopal Church administers ashes to Tom Van Nortwick of Geneva as part of the church's Ashes to Go event for Ash Wednesday at the Geneva Metra station.

GENEVA - Once Ashley Richardson of Wayne saw Rev. Bill Nesbit in his vestments on Wednesday, she stepped forward to receive ashes.

Nesbit was standing outside the Geneva train station to anoint commuters' foreheads with ashes in the shape of a cross on Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the 40-day Lenten season leading up to Easter. Richardson said she received ashes she might not have gotten on her own.

"I thought it was a good opportunity – I work in the city and I don't have time to go (to church), so this was helpful," she said.

Richardson was one of about 30 people on Wednesday to participate in St. Charles Episcopal Church's "Ashes to Go" program. Nesbit, retired priest Bill Kruse and parishioner Katie Thomson from the church helped to distribute ashes during the morning rush hour. This is the fourth year that the church has done the program in Geneva, Nesbit said.

Ashes to Go, which is thought to have started in St. Louis in 2007, took off in the Chicago area in 2011 after three local Episcopal congregations offered the program in 2010, according to the website ashestogo.org. Church officials wanted to bring their ministry out to public areas and help people observe Ash Wednesday.

"It's nice to be a church of the world sharing a message of love, that God loves you and forgives you," Nesbit said.

Candace Moline made sure to get her ashes outside the train station before heading to Anderson Elementary School in St. Charles, where she is a second-grade teacher. The Geneva resident said her father was one of the founding members of St. Charles Episcopal Church. She attended services there with her parents growing up, and it's something she continues to do today.

"I think it's really important," Moline said of Lent. "It's a time of introspection and rebuilding our faith."

Moline has received her ashes through the Ashes to Go program every year the church has offered it in Geneva. John DeMartino of St. Charles also participates in the program every year. He is always appreciative that the church is out there, especially during the Wednesday morning snowfall and 20-degree temperature.

Nesbit said the church will brave the elements when necessary to have the program.

"This is better than rain, I don't mind this," Nesbit said of the snow.

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