ROCK HILL — At the Ash Wednesday service at Rock Hills Episcopal Church of our Saviour, the Rev. Janice Chalaron spoke the same words to each person who stood before her to receive ashes daubed on a forehead:
Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
The message was clear: Nobody lives forever and all are equal.
It did not matter that in one pew there was a former mayor of Rock Hill, Betty Jo Rhea, and across the aisle a man named Chuck Hurst, who wore a Carolina sweatshirt. Each received ashes the same way.
Everyone in the beautiful, historic, renovated sanctuary would have it no other way than equality of spirit on this holy day. After the service, Hurst said Ash Wednesday is important because it shows the faith of people.
It is the one day of the year where we stop and remember who we really are in the eyes of God, he said.
Ash Wednesday is the first day of the season of Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday during which many Christians refocus on prayer and repentance. It is often seen as a time for sacrifice fasting, abstaining from eating meat, giving up treats or other pleasures.
Katherine Suaso, 23, was tearful and emotional during and after the service at Church of Our Saviour. She said it helped her cope with what is going on in my life, in my family.
Rev. Chalarons message was all about trying to do better, to try harder, to give more to others. Were all human, and we all live lives filled with mistakes.
Similar messages were echoed in churches across York County and around the world.
St. Anne Catholic Church in Rock Hill was packed to standing room for its 9 a.m. mass led by Father Fabio Refosco, a Brazilian-born priest. He and a student at St. Anne Catholic School mentioned Mondays stunning news that Pope Benedict XVI would abdicate his position later this month.
Refosco asked people pray over a new pope, and the student prayed that the College of Cardinals have strength in choosing a new pope.
Hundreds of people, including immigrants St. Anne is home to large Hispanic and Vietnamese populations received ashes in the sign of the cross on foreheads.
The Lenten season is about thinking and praying about things done wrong, Refosco told people at St. Annes service.
At the Episcopal church, Rev. Chalaron spoke of the same things.
We are all aging, imperfect, and need to be together to remember who we really are, she said.
After the service was over, many people hugged and shook hands and spoke of a renewed sense of community, of a spirit to try harder to be nicer and smile a little bit more for somebody who can use it.