News and Events

Saint Leo University Begins Lent With Distribution of Ashes, Lenten Challenges

The university community and the public gathered on Ash Wednesday to begin Lent, to pray, and to receive ashes.

Tags: Benedictine Monks Catholic Catholic Identity Religion Student Affairs Theology University Ministry Christian Benedictine Monks of Saint Leo Abbey Student Organizations Saint Jude Chapel Saint Leo Abbey Church
22 February 2023 - By University Communications

The Saint Leo University community marked the beginning of Lent with the receiving of ashes on Ash Wednesday today (February 22) with distribution by University Ministry team members outside of Saint Jude Chapel and by the Benedictine Monks of Saint Leo Abbey at the Saint Leo Abbey Church. 

“Oh, I can do that.” “I’ll try!” Those phrases were echoed over and over again as students, faculty, and staff selected a “Lenten Challenge,” which were printed on strips of paper, from bowls held by members of the University Ministry team.


The challenges to be completed during Lent included items such as limiting or deleting social media, giving up coffee, taking a cold shower in the morning, giving up sweets, listening to uplifting music, and more.

While Lent isn’t just about “giving up something” for the 40 days that make up the season leading to Easter, Catholics and Christians often choose to do so as a way to make a sacrifice. Others choose to do something meaningful or helpful to others or complete acts of charity.

Saint Leo sophomore Arielle Jacus was still deciding what to do on Wednesday. “I think I’m going to try to be less slothful in my prayer life,” Jacus said.

Lucas Nocera, the interim director of University Ministry for Saint Leo and an adjunct religion  instructor, explained that, “the whole purpose is to do things that help us be better persons.”

As Father Anthony Ujagbo and Father Cosmas Amadi — graduate students at Saint Leo University — used the ashes to make the sign of the cross on recipients’ foreheads, they said, “Turn away from sin and live the gospel.” 


The ashes “are a reminder that we are all called for a higher purpose,” said senior J. Paul Schellenberg. “For me, Ash Wednesday is a start of a time of preparation. Getting ashes is awesome.”

Being marked by that cross of ashes also ties the community together. Schellenberg, who leads the men's group at Saint Leo, said it helps to build identity. “It marks our identity as Christians and leads into everything we do,” he said. “It helps us understand who we are as God’s people.” 


Nocera offered some thoughts for observing Lent. “My advice to enter into Lent well is to have humility: knowing who you are before God, before others, and yourself. Understand that we all have room for growth spiritually and in a human way, and that we should strive for excellence, and to love God and others to the very best of our ability. But to also remember the mercy of God when we fail to live our holiness well or fall in our Lenten practices.”

Students are invited to join the Men's Group every Wednesday from 7 to 8 p.m. in the Student Activities Building, Room 117, and the Women's Group every Wednesday from 7 to 8 p.m., in the Apartment 6, multimedia room. “This is a great way for students to engage with their faith this Lenten season,” Nocera said. 


Confession is available at the usual times of 6:15 – 6:45 p.m. Sunday before the 7 p.m. Student Mass, and 7 – 7:30 p.m., Tuesday.  

Lenten Mission

The monks and Saint Leo University faculty from the Department of Philosophy, Religion, and Theology will host a Lenten mission Monday, March 27, through Thursday, March 30. The Benedictine monks and faculty members will deliver Lenten meditations at 7 p.m. nightly that week in the Abbey Church.

A penance service will be hosted by the monks and University Ministry at 7 p.m., Monday, April 3, in the Abbey Church. Everyone is invited to gather to celebrate the sacrament of reconciliation.

 “Take more time to pray this Lent,” Nocera said. “Fast from things that distract you from God —hint, hint, our phones. Take intentional steps to give of yourself to those that are less fortunate. In all these areas, we should give where it hurts in order to imitate Jesus' dying for us on the Cross. Love is best done when it pushes us a little bit!”

For guidelines on fasting during Lent, view here.

The U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops also provides resources for Lent 2023. Resources will be posted here.

For more information about University Ministry, contact or (352) 588-8331.