Ash Wednesday: Getting ashes on the go, in a car and even in jail
Suburban Christians joined millions worldwide observing Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the penitential season of Lent.
At an Arlington Heights train station, members of St. Simon Episcopal Church offered to impose smudgy crosses made of ashes on the foreheads of morning train riders.
"It's very convenient to have folks here at the train station because otherwise we would have to rush over to the church and get it done," said Todd Koclanis of Arlington Heights.
St. Simon parishioner Kate Boon, who was performing the rite, said "I think it's an opportunity for people to actually practice their faith on a very, very busy day when they might not have time to get to church themselves."
In the afternoon, Joliet Diocese Bishop Richard Pates said Mass and imposed ashes for detainees at the DuPage County jail, as well as several members of the staff.
"Repent, and believe in the good news (the Gospel)" of salvation, he and a deacon said as they marked foreheads.
Roughly 25 male detainees attended. Pates later gave ashes to female detainees.
"The ashes are a symbol -- this is who we are, we are sinners. But the cross is a sign of victory," Pates told the men.
Most of the Mass was conducted in English, but a detainee read the Old and New Testament readings in Spanish, and at the end, Spanish-speaking detainees sang.
Wednesday evening in Elgin, the Rev. Marion Phipps offered drive-through ashes at St. Hugh of Lincoln Episcopal Church.
"We're members here and were not going to have time during the service because we have some other commitments," said Jeff Maliszewski of Elgin after receiving ashes from the passenger's side of a vehicle. He and driver Fay Kitchin rolled through to receive crosses on their foreheads.
Among those ministered to by Phipps was a woman with a broken foot.
"She was so excited because she wasn't going to be able to go to church because her foot was so sore," said Phipps. "Behind her was somebody who was making a delivery at a house behind us.
"We're trying to provide people an opportunity to get ashes whether they can or cannot go to church."
Ashes are a way of showing remorse and repentance for sinning. Sometimes clergy pronounce, "Remember, from dust you came and to dust you shall return," during the rite, a reference to Bible verses that speak of man's mortality.
Lent is a six-week season that reflects on Jesus Christ's sacrificial death to atone for the sins of humankind. The ashes are often made from palm fronds used on Palm Sunday, which celebrates his entrance to Jerusalem before his crucifixion. The season ends on Easter Sunday, which celebrates Christ's resurrection.
Not all Christians mark Ash Wednesday and some Orthodox Christian denominations don't begin Lent until later.
• Daily Herald photographers Mark Welsh and Patrick Kunzer contributed to this report.